“How to Beat No-Limit Hold ‘Em 6-max Cash Games” is eight years old - What has changed?

As the book “How to Beat No-Limit Hold ‘Em 6-max Cash Games” nears eight years in age, I’ll quickly reflect on how different 6-max no-limit hold ‘em games are today and how your should adjust from the style recommended in my book. I took four years off after Black Friday to get my graduate degree, but I’ve started playing online again. When my book was written, you could play a more straight forward style of playing your hands for value, with some bluffs mixed in against players with a fold button, and profit. Here’s some quick points I’ve noticed:

1) The style recommended in the book is unbalanced with regards to bluffs. I don’t advocate bluffing enough to balance out my value hands. This won’t matter against fish at micro/small stakes on Bovada, but regulars are much better at recognizing these kind of tendencies today, especially if you’re playing on a site where they can get sizable samples on your turn/river aggression. Be prepared to barrel better scare cards or any sort of equity pickup on the turn, and follow through on the river, just like you’d do with your strong hands.

2) I don’t recognize stealing enough on the button and cutoff. My preflop hand charts folds hands such as small suited kings on the button, which is just crazy! I think back in the day, there was a tendency to be afraid of playing dominated hands postflop (hence why I was ok with playing something like 65o on the button and folding K4s). However, having the stronger showdown value of a high pair or king high has become valuable in today’s games where people defend their blinds more aggressively. Additionally, the semibluff power of the 2nd nut flush draw is great. I’d open more suited queens and jacks and fold the weaker connectors like 65o, unless the blinds were fairly nitty — then I’d steal a ton.

3) GTO was barely a thing then, now it’s always talked about. Again, playing against Bovada fish, trying to play GTO is going to be misguided as you’ll want to play exploitably to maximally profit off their exploitable play. But understanding what GTO is, what that kind of sttyle is like, will help you recognize the exploitable aspects of your opponent’s play, TAG and fish alike. I’d recommend watching some of the excellent GTO theory videos at DeucesCracked to get started.

 

04. November 2015 by Skilled Online Poker
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“How to Beat No-Limit Hold ‘Em 6-max Cash Games” Table of Contents

Part I: Introduction

Chapter 1: The Action Game Continue Reading →

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Outro | How to Beat No-Limit Hold ‘Em 6-max Cash Games

Before I found poker, I was destined for your average $35k a year job right out of a college, working at a place I didn’t enjoy and living a life I felt no way out of.

Since poker, I’ve averaged over six figures a year while being able to work when I want and where I want from the comfort of my own home.  There are ups and downs to the world of poker, but overall, being freer is what it’s all about.

I’ve spent a month in Costa Rica on a whim.  In 2008, I will travel and live in Sydney, Buenos Aires and Prague.  All of this is possible because I can make a good living from my laptop.

If you learn and understand what I’ve presented in this book, you can too.  Hold ‘em 6-max online is the only game (and the best game) you need to know to make a lot of money.  But it won’t happen unless you put some money online and build up the experience.  By combining the experience with reading this book and online forums, you are destined to become a master of online poker.

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Part VI Summary

Always have a reason to double or triple-barrel.  Use your hand reading skills and your board texture reading ability to decide whether or not to fire another bluff after your continuation bet has been called.

You have to open up preflop if you’re opponents are 3-betting your open-raises too much.  Start calling 3-bets with more marginal hands and throwing in 4-bets.

Don’t slowplay too much.  It’s better to go ahead and bet and hope they have something that can get all-in against your big hand.

If you’re calling out of the blinds, check-raise bluff to steal some pots away.  You can’t call out-of-position and check-fold every flop that you don’t flop top pair with.  You need to be stealing pots to make up for calling preflop.

Use timing tells to your advantage.  Some players do make the mistake of acting within a certain amount of time with a certain hand.  Don’t take it too far – use your knowledge of how the opponent plays, his stats, and what you figure his hand range to be before you start bringing timing tells into the mix.

 Consider metagame when playing against a familiar opponent.  Online, you’ll play against many of the same people, day in and day out.  How you played a hand yesterday or a month ago can affect your decisions in a hand you’re playing today.

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Have you finished the book and you’re looking for more training? The best way to learn more is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked, especially if you enjoyed those free videos above. They helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

Do you have the poker software to track your hands online? I talk about this kind of software a lot in my book because they are an absolute neccessity — your opponents will be using them, you need them. Software such as Pokertracker 4 will keep you in the game. Check them out by clicking here.

You probably have it by now, but if not, make sure you have rakeback. You are giving us massive amounts of money by not having it!

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Chapter 35: Metagame in Online Poker

Welcome to the holy grail of crushing high-stakes online poker.  The master of the metagame will always be one step ahead of his opponents, leaving them wondering if he can see their hole cards.

The master of the metagame uses his vast knowledge about his opponent’s hand ranges, their tendencies and their history with him to manipulate every situation in his favor.  The master of the metagame understands his image and how he has been affecting the table dynamics and he knows how his opponents are planning to react to this.

So what exactly is metagame?  It’s the sum of all the parts of a poker session or multiple sessions against the same player.  When a thinking opponent makes a decision, he considers all that you’ve learned: his and his opponent’s hand ranges, his and his opponent’s images, the table dynamics and the history of the table (what has happened in recent hands and what has happened in hands in prior sessions).  The term “metagame” acts as an umbrella for considering all these things when playing the game of poker.

Good players understand metagame and do things to manipulate it when they’re playing other thinking opponents.  Most metagame comes from players who play each other constantly.  How you played your set yesterday will be in your opponent’s head and he will watch for the same pattern to avoid that set.

For example, I’m at a table with a tough $3/$6 regular on Poker Stars.  We’ve played thousands of hands together and we have a good grasp on how the other plays.  He knows that when I call out of the blinds with a medium pocket pair like 77, I check-raise when I flop a set and check-call the flop and turn when the board isn’t very scary, such as T554.

I know that as I hold 7s7h in the BB and he open raises from the CO, I’m going to take metagame into account and make a move.  If I don’t flop a set, I’ll check-raise it like I have a set.  If I flop a set, I’ll check-call the flop and turn, looking to induce bluffs since he will probably feel he can bluff me off a vulnerable hand like middle pair.

After I call with 7s7h, the flop is 9d7h3c.  Nice!  I check.  My opponent fires out $36 and I call.  The turn is the Js.  It’s a good card because he can now represent that he has paired the J (and he might as well actually hit it, so he has a hand that can give me action sometimes).   I check.  My opponent bets out $90 into $112 pot and I think for a little bit, and call.  I purposely think, even though I know what my action will be, because I want to him to think that I’m thinking if I should call again with a hand like middle pair.  This is metagame again, dealing with timing tells.

The river is the 2d.  I decide to think for a little while and check again.  My villain thinks for nearly 20 seconds before finally checking his AdQc behind on the river.  Against his hand, I maximized value by using our previous history to manipulate metagame and have him bluff at me because he thought I was holding a much weaker holding.

This hand will greatly affect the metagame further.  Now he knows I can slowplay a set and play it in creative ways.  He will be less apt to bluff me in the future in these spots.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to make a play that has a slightly negative expectation or neutral expectation for the sake of metagame.  When you’re playing opponents who you see every day, it can be worth it to “send a signal” with a play that you’re willing to go to the outer regions of correct strategy.

For example, let’s say we get 3-bet when we’re holding a hand like Ts8s.  By 4-bet shoving, we don’t expect to make a profit on the play, as when we’re called we’re going to get crushed a lot.  But if we do get called and he sees our hand, he will know we are capable of going all-in preflop with a marginal hand when we feel he is being too aggressive.  Again, be very careful with a play like this.  It shouldn’t be done often and there needs to be a good chance that he will fold to your 4-bet to make this play worthwhile.

Another example is when you find yourself on the river with a very weak pair and are facing a bet from an aggressive regular.  Sometimes your opponent is bluffing, but you don’t know if he’s bluffing to make a profitable call.  You’re just not really sure.  You should sometimes make this call and let your opponent know you can make very thin calls when you think he might be bluffing.

Metagame can also come in the form of a single session.  It’s a combination of table dynamics and image and previous hands that can affect how the current hand is playing out.

For example, you’re playing a fish at $1/$2.  In a previous hand, you had double-barrel bluffed the turn with a flush draw and the fish called with a set he was trapping with.  You hit your flush on the river and the fish berated you in chat.

The metagame between you and the fish has been largely affected by this hand.  From now on, every time you bet, the fish will think you’re an idiot and call you down with anything.  You exploit this metagame situation by only value betting the fish and not bluffing him.

Notes about metagame

Don’t worry about it that much at lower limits.  Things like having a fish think you’re an idiot will come naturally and it’s pretty easy to know what to do when it happens.  Don’t worry about outplaying regulars at $.25/$.50 by mixing up your lines – they are probably bad at poker and not thinking on a high enough level to make you stray from your standard value lines.

The plays listed in “mixing up your play” go great with metagame.  It’s about keeping our good, thinking opponents off their guard about what we actually have.  It’s also about confusing our weaker opponents into making bad, losing plays against us.  You don’t need to play a hand in a tricky manner every time (and you shouldn’t), but if you just do it 1 out of 4 or 5 times, you will avoid being exploited and be able to gain value from more situations.

Nothing can replace actual experience when it comes to understanding metagame.  For players with hundreds of thousands of hands played, it becomes almost instinctive while they’re playing to consider metagame in their decisions.

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Are you looking for more information on metagame? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

 

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Chapter 34: Timing Tells in Online Poker

You’ve read about tells in books.  You’ve heard about it on TV.  It’s one of the most glamorous and talked about aspects of live poker: being able to pick something up from your opponent about the strength or weakness of their hand from an aspect other than the action of the hand.

We obviously lose this physical aspect when we play on the virtual felt of the online table.  However, there are tells that exist and they involve the timing of how fast your opponent makes his decisions.  These tells are not to be relied on very heavily and my understanding of them has only come with a lot of experience.

I’ll describe some of the more reliable timing tells I’ve noticed in my career:

The timing of a check-minraise.  You’ll get check-minraised a lot.  Sometimes it’s the pure nuts, sometimes it’s absolutely nothing and sometimes it’s top pair no kicker.  While it’s often hard to tell which one of these a check min-raise is, I have found a somewhat reliable timing tell depending on how quickly you are check-minraised.

#1. You raise from the button.  The BB, a 40/10/2 fish calls.  He checks the flop and you continuation bet.  He instantly check-minraises you.

#2. You raise from the button.  The BB, a 40/10/2 fish calls.  He checks the flop and you continuation bet.  He thinks for five seconds and check-minraises you.

I have found #1 to be a bluff a much higher percent of the time than #2.  When someone instantly check-minraises you, it is much more likely they are trying to pick off your continuation bet than trying to sucker you in with a real hand.  Think of it this way: they had the move pre-planned before you bet.  They think you have nothing and don’t even need to think about what to do when you bet.  They’re taking a stand this time.    Whereas when someone thinks for five seconds and check-minraises, they’re either trying to disguise their hand and are not trying to look too eager to raise, or they waited to see what you bet so they could act upon your bet with their big hand.  When someone has flopped a set, they want to analyze their opponents bet before they act and decide upon the right decision.  Also, most opponents feel if they instantly act, they are looking too eager to play the hand.

This timing tell isn’t 100% accurate, but I have found it to be true enough to consider it every time I am check-minraised.  When it comes to close decisions, this can be the tipping point to lead to one decision over the other.

“I have top pair and know I’m calling down.”  There are often spots where someone has flopped top pair against a preflop raiser and he knows he is calling down.  He at least knows he is calling the next street.  He feels there’s no option to either fold or raise, so the call is automatic.  His big flaw is he tends to instantly call the next bet.  Instantly.  This can tip off me off, since I know if he had a big hand like a set or two pair he would have at least thought about raising.

For example, say you raise KsKh from the CO.  The button, a 30/10/2 who is an OK but losing player calls.  The flop comes down Qs7d7h.  You bet a 4/5 pot continuation bet and your opponent quickly calls.  The turn is the 4s.  You bet 2/3 pot and your opponent instantly calls.  In this spot, your opponent is giving away his hand.  If he had a 7, he would think about if he should raise or not.  Thus, on the river you can play perfectly against him and make a large value bet since he has top pair and seems to like it.

This can hold true for draws as well.  Many players know they are just going to call their flush draw so they instantly call after you bet.  It’s most important to know that almost all the time, when someone instantly calls your bets, it is NOT a big hand.

Not giving off timing tells yourself

It’s very important you avoid giving off any timing tells yourself.  It’s tempting to quickly call in those top pair situations because you know what you’re going to do.  However, some players can pick up on these types of spots so it’s best to act with the same amount of time in every decision (except in those hands that require some tough thinking).

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Are you looking for more information on timing tells? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

 

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Chapter 33: Getting Tricky in Online Poker

Double and triple barreling

After a continuation bet you will often get called.  Sometimes the same player is calling them so much you think he can’t have a hand that often.  You’re right.

Sometimes a player will call a continuation bet and a turn card comes that doesn’t make you a better hand but you think is a scare card to your opponent and that he can’t call another bet.  You’re right.

Betting without a hand on the turn after continuation betting is called double-barreling.  Knowing when to double barrel can be tough, but if you pick the right spots you’ll be making money off it.  You’ll also be discouraging your opponents from calling your continuation bets with weaker hands and you’ll build an image of an aggressive player so your big bets with big hands will get called later on.

You should usually double-barrel when a scare card comes off.  When my opponent calls my continuation bet on a low flop and an overcard such as an A, K, Q or J comes on the turn, I almost always bet it.  Usually your opponent will have called  the low flop with a one pair type of hand that is small and a big card on the turn will be make it tough for him to continue with the hand if you bet.  I would bet at least 2/3 of the pot or more.  You want to make it tough for them to call.

You should usually double-barrel when you pick up a good draw, such as a flush draw or open-ended straight draw.  When my continuation bet gets called on the flop and I pick up a flush draw, I’m almost always betting the turn.  There’s a chance he’ll fold to the double-barrel and even if he doesn’t, I have cards that can win me the pot and that can win me a big river bet.  This added equity makes the double-barrel a good bet: I have two ways to win.

If I didn’t have the draw, he usually wouldn’t fold the turn enough to make it a profitable double-barrel on its own.  You need that extra 15-20% chance to win the pot to make it worth it.

If you never triple-barrel, you’re not doing much wrong.  I don’t like triple-barreling (betting the river with nothing after you have bet the flop and turn and been called).  I find once someone decides to call the turn, they are going to feel pot-committed and call the river.  Only under rare circumstances where I have a hand like a busted 6-high flush draw and I think he has a bigger flush draw that he’s going to have to fold would I triple-barrel.  I might triple-barrel if a card like an ace hit the river, also.

It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to triple-barrels.  It’s very easy to spew in these spots and end up losing a lot of money.

Dealing with the donk bet

A donk bet is when an out-of-position opponent leads into you after you raise preflop.  This term famously came from online poker forums when winning players kept facing this kind of bet from the weaker players in their fixed-limit games.  It’s by no means just a play done by fish today.

It’s an interesting situation because the donk bet can mean many different things depending on the player.  The donk bet from a fish is much different than a donk bet from a TAG or LAG.  We’ll examine dealing with the bet from all three typical opponents.

When a fish donk bets.  I am constantly getting donk betted by fish.  I am usually raising these fish donk bets.  I find the fish donk bet to be nothing or a weak hand enough of the time to make bluff raising nearly any of these profitable.

For example, say we are playing $.10/$.25 on Cake Poker.  Our opponent, who I’ve tagged as a big fish, is generally playing like he has no clue.  We raise KsTc on the button and our fish calls in the BB.

The flop is Jc7h3d.  Our opponent bets the minimum (they love to do this) into a pot of $2.  You should raise this minimum bet every time, to about what the pot size is.  They almost always fold.

If you have a good or great hand you should always raise a fish donk bet for value.  If your hand is an OK but not good hand, you should usually call and see what happens on the turn.

Usually if a fish donks the full pot into me, I won’t bluff it.  Sometimes fish bet the minimum as a donk bet.  This is an automatic raise every single time.

Once a fish calls a raise after his donk bet, give up.  He actually has a hand this time and isn’t planning on folding.

When a TAG donk bets.  This is a tougher spot.  You can bluff raise these but use discretion.  A TAG’s donk betting range can mean a lot of things depending on the player and it’s hard to define all those things here.

Depending on the TAG, it can be a hand like middle pair trying to feel you out, or it can be a set trying to get maximum value from you.  Some TAGs know you are going to attempt to bluff their donk bet and will donk bet a strong draw into you so they can 3-bet all-in after you raise.

For the most part, only start playing back at a TAGs donk bets when you notice them doing it a few times.  Then you can assume their hand range is wide enough to donk bet that they will have to fold to your raises.

If you have a good or decent hand like a medium overpair or top pair good kicker, I would usually just call a TAG donk bet and reevaluate based on how he bets the turn.  Generally if a TAG leads strong again you can get away from these type of strength hands but there are many instances where I would continue with the hand.

When a LAG donk bets.  This is a tougher and trickier spot that has the ability to drive you crazy if a LAG likes to donk bet and play back if you raise.  I feel that I can’t really say much here, since each and every LAG can play so many hands differently in this spot.

As usual with a LAG, you’ll need to be prepared to put a lot of money in with marginal hands.  I would recommend just calling most of your good hands when facing a LAG donk bet and occasionally raising with hands like gutshots, overcards and your great hands.

The trouble when facing a LAG is he might be capable of 3-betting all-in hands like gutshots as well.  Also, when we just call the flop, he’ll put us on a vulnerable hand and can bet the turn and river as well.

Experience will help you the most in these spots.

Should you donk bet?

As you can see, the donk bet can put people in some tough spots.  As a whole, you won’t be calling out of the blinds very much to be put into these situations, but there are some hands that aren’t good enough to 3-bet out-of-position and you’ll have to call these versus a CO or button raiser.

A donk bet can help you define a hand like middle pair, especially if you are up against a straightforward, tight player.  You can also donk bet as a semibluff if you don’t flop much but feel it’s unlikely that your opponent has hit the flop.  Donk betting into an aggressive TAG or a LAG is dangerous because they will often interpret this as weakness and raise.

Of course, if you feel that is the case, you can donk bet your strong draws and sets into them and get more value out of them.

Let’s try an example of where I feel a donk bet will be the best play.  At $.50/$1, a straightforward 18/15/2 TAG raises on the CO to $3.  We see this TAG playing every day and we know he plays a lot of tables.  He’s most likely playing liking a robot and not paying great attention.  We have 8h8d in the SB and elect to just call.  If we 3-bet it will just get the TAG to fold all his worse hands and call with his better hands.

The flop comes Tc9d2d.  Given how many hands are in the CO’s range, he most likely missed this flop.   We have the best hand the majority of the time.  Check-calling isn’t a good play, because he most likely has a few outs with his overcard hands and we’re going to have to play out-of-position with a marginal hand on the turn or river and can be easily bluffed off the best hand.

Check-raising to find out where we are in the hand is going to be expensive.  Given the fact he’s straight-forward, I don’t expect him to bluff our donk bet, so I lead into him for $5.  It will give us the same information as a check-raise and we are putting in much less money to find out.

Experiment with the donk bet and see if you like the play in your game.  It is a cheaper way to find out where you are if you are against opponents who won’t play back at it without a hand.

Keep your opponents guessing

As you’ve seen in the hand ranges chapter, if someone has a pretty good idea what your hand is, they’re going to play pretty well against you.  In the online poker world, you’ll be playing against many tough opponents, often the same ones day in and day out.  They’re doing the same thing you’re doing, making a good living playing online poker.

They’re going to notice how we’re playing.  They’re going to have PokerAce Hud telling them how tight or how loose we are.  If we play a hand the same way every time, they’ll start taking advantage of us and start taking our money.

That’s why we have to start playing “tricky.”  By being tricky, you are always keeping your opponents off guard.  They won’t be able to put you on a hand, or they’ll have to put you on such a wide range of hands it will be nearly impossible for them to play correctly against you.

A little warning before we proceed.  Don’t play tricky against fish or at the lower stakes ($.50/$1 and below).  Your opponents will just not be thinking that deeply about what you have for a hand, and what hand they are representing themselves.  Your goal against these players is to play tight, solid and aggressive at all times, and to value bet them to death.

Dealing with getting 3-bet and using the 4-bet bluff

When you reach the medium and higher limits, preflop aggression picks up in all directions.  Your opponents will begin to 3-bet you preflop much more.  They know you are raising in late position with a wider range and will take advantage of that by putting the pressure on.

Sometimes you are getting 3-bet so much you need to play back.  There are two ways to play back: start calling their 3-bets more and playing a flop or 4-betting.

Calling the 3-bet.  When you notice your opponent is 3-betting you with a wider range than just his great hands, you can start calling the 3-bets with a wider range.  This can be a tricky situation, since the pot will be large and you will be faced with a lot of decisions with one pair type hands.

I usually only try to call 3-bets when I’m in position.  It is such a huge advantage because when playing out-of-position, you will have to define your hand so much more to your opponent and in such a large pot he’ll usually outplay you.

I start calling with weaker hands such as ATs and 76s when I’m raising the button and a player in the blinds is a constant 3-bettor.  To play these hands postflop, I generally call a bet if I flop a pair, and raise (which is usually an all-in at this point) with good draws and two pair or better.  This is very general, though, and you will need to gain some experience to understand all these circumstantial scenarios.

4-bet bluffing

4-bet bluffing starts to occur frequently at $2/$4 and above.  It is 4-betting a marginal hand against an opponent who 3-bet you.

You should only 4-bet bluff if you have good reason to do so.  Some opponents will 3-bet you virtually anytime you open in late position.  You must make a stand against these opponents and sometimes I prefer to 4-bet all-in with a marginal hand like T9s or 66.  This happens rarely, however, and I only do it versus opponents who are getting out of line.

You may have noticed I said all-in.  For example, let’s say I and my opponent are 100 BB’s deep.  I raise A6s on the button to $14 at a $2/$4 game.  My opponent 3-bets to $52.  He does this to me constantly and I’ve been playing tightly against the 3-bets for the session.

Instead of making a reraise such as three times his 3-bet to $156, it’s better to push.  By pushing, you force him to make a tougher decision and force him to call off a lot of money.  It’s just so rare he has a hand big enough to call, since he likes to 3-bet us so much.

Again, use extreme discretion when making this play.  It can be very easy to spew in this situation.

Trapping with AA and KK

One thing I notice my students not doing enough is trapping with AA and KK.  By trapping, I mean just calling an opponent’s 3-bet when he reraises your opening raise[1].  It’s also possible to flat call an opening raise with these two hands, but that is very circumstantial and outside the scope of this book.

When you 4-bet an opponent, you are showing a lot of strength.  Many of the tighter opponents you face can fold a hand like QQ or JJ to a 4-bet.  Against these opponents, it’s better to just call their 3-bet preflop and try to get it all in on any flop.  Your opponent will have a much harder time folding a hand like QQ, JJ and TT when it flops an overpair in a big pot.

I usually only do this versus my tighter opponents.  Against fish, I just go ahead and 4-bet since they are not good at folding.  Against opponents who are tough aggressive players, I 4-bet sometimes since they expect me to 4-bet bluff with weaker hands.

Squeezing

Squeezing becomes a fairly common move at $2/$4 and above but can be effective at the lower limits when used correctly.  Squeezing means to 3-bet when there is an open raise and at least one call.

For example, a TAG opponent raises to $6 at a $1/$2 game on the CO.  The button, a tight and passive regular calls.  You’re in the big blind with T8s and reraise to $24, and everyone folds.

Squeezing can apply to 3-betting any of your hands in this spot, though generally when referred to in the online poker world it means 3-betting a marginal or decent hand.

You should 3-bet big in this spot.  I would make it at least four times the opener’s raise and usually a little more if he has two or more callers.

This move is effective because your opponents fold a lot in this spot.  You’re showing a lot of strength and you’re making it expensive for them to see a flop.  Think of it this way:  the original raiser, who is showing the most strength, is now trapped in between you and the original caller.  If he decides to continue he’s going to be in a tough spot.  The caller(s) would usually 3-bet themselves if they had a big hand, so they are playing their marginal hands.  They can’t call such a large bet in this spot.

This move works best when you are facing tight players raising and calling in late position.  Against fish, be wary of squeezing hands like suited connectors because they are less apt to fold and you’ll be playing a large pot out of position with seven high.  It’s much better to call those hands and see a flop.

Start experimenting with squeezing.  You’ll get a feel for the best combination of table dynamics, image and who you are up against to make this move with.  Used with the right amount of discretion, it will be a very profitable play.

Postflop floating

Floating is another play that your trickier and tougher opponents will start using when you get to $1/$2 and above.  It refers to when your opponent calls your continuation bet on the flop with absolutely nothing or a very weak hand like a gutshot or bottom pair with the intention on stealing the pot away on the turn.  Preflop floating was referenced in the understanding position chapter as part of the abusing CO openers section.

This is a technique that shows the power of position.  An opponent can sometimes call with absolutely nothing and still be doing a profitable play.

I’m playing $5/$10 on Full Tilt. I have AcQd on the button in a $5/$10 game.  UTG+1, a standard 18/15 TAG who I’ve played a few hundred hands with, opens for $40.  I call.

The flop is Jc5h4h.  UTG+1 bets $60.  I just call.

The reason I’m calling this flop is because there’s a decent chance either UTG+1 has missed the flop with overcards or has an underpair to the board.  Since UTG+1 is straightforward I expect him to usually give up if he has less than top pair.  I usually raise this continuation bet but it’s good to mix it up with floats.  By calling, I can also represent a flush if a third heart hits.

The turn is the 7h.  UTG+1 checks.  I bet $180 into the $200 pot.  UTG+1 calls.

Ok, my float didn’t work there.  But I’m not done yet.  I put UTG+1 on an overpair or a good jack like AJ or KJ.  In the hands we’ve played together, I think he views me as tight, so I can represent the flush by firing a big river bet.

I rarely do bluffs like this, but when facing the right mix of a tight opponent, who thinks you are tight and an ugly board for your opponent’s hand, it’s worth a shot.

The river is the 2d.  UTG+1 checks, and I bet $480 into the $560 pot.  UTG+1 runs down his time bank but eventually folds.

It’s a ballsy bluff, given that I put UTG+1 on a pretty good hand, but in his mind I have the flush way too often for him to call.

It’s possible to float on the flop without a hand that can make something if you really believe your opponent has nothing.  This is a tougher play since you have nothing to back you up if your float doesn’t work, so use it sparingly.

It’s better to use the float against tighter opponents who can fold hands and tend to give up easier than others.  This move has been known to frustrate players and put them on tilt, which is great for when you have a pocket pair in this spot and flop a set and get your opponent to put his whole stack in with middle pair or a bluff.

Slowplaying

Ah, slowplaying, the act of playing a very good hand in a deceptive manner by checking or calling.  A favorite move by amateurs, old men and tournament donks, it’s very overrated.

In 6-max no-limit hold ‘em, slowplaying is usually a bad play.  The games are aggressive enough that players call you down with any pair.  They’re aggressive enough that they will bluff and semibluff you on a variety of boards that you shouldn’t slowplay.

Also, with 100 BB+ effective stacks, it will often take all three streets to get an opponent’s stack in the middle.  By slowplaying, you usually cut out a street of betting that is very costly if your opponent was willing to call you down or put in a raise.

Some might say that they get increased action from their opponents when they slowplay.  I find that is rarely the case.  It’s much better just to bet your hand and hope they have something worth putting a lot of money in the pot with than slowplaying to squeeze out an extra bet or two.

However, there is one scenario where I would slowplay:

When my hand cripples the deck.  Let’s say I have AdAs and raise and get called.  The flop is Ah7d3c.  My opponent checks.  There is absolutely nothing out there that can call me.  Sometimes a pair of sevens will call and on rare occasion they’ll bluff me here, but 95% of the time they’re folding.  This is a spot where there’s more value to be made by checking and hoping to get a bluff or two from your opponent who might put you on a weak hand.  If my opponent has a hand like 77 or 33, we’re getting all the money in anyways.

Defending the blinds: The check-raise bluff

When you’re playing the medium to higher limits, you’ll face more TAGs who know what they’re doing.  They’ll start abusing the button and raising very lightly.

These TAGs will be good players preflop and postflop and take advantage when you start 3-betting them with a wider range.  In fact, you’ll just end up putting a lot of money in out-of-position and the TAG will be getting the better of you.

When I notice this dynamic start to happen, I change my blind defense strategy: I start calling their late position raises sometimes and 3-bet sometimes.  When I start calling, I call hands like KQ, KJ and AT.  These hands can flop overcards and gutshots, which will help me with my next play: the flop check-raise bluff.

Anytime I flop overcards or a gutshot with these hands when calling in the blinds, I will check-raise a TAG late position raiser.  Many TAGs at higher limits are good at playing back at 3-bets but not at check-raises on the flop.  You’ll take down the pot often and when you don’t, you have a chance to win the pot by hitting your gutshot or overcard.

It’s important to not continue your bluff when you are called unless you have built up enough history of check-raise bluffing here that you think they are calling the check-raise with some marginal hands.  Usually by calling, they are telling you they have a good hand.  If you get the feeling they are calling with marginal hands, start firing the turn with a big bet.

In these spots, if I flop a hand like an open-ended straight draw or top pair, I will usually just check and call with it.  These hands are worth more than just a flop check-raise bluff and are tough to play against a flop 3-bet.

An example of a check-raise bluff is from a session I just played.  It was $2/$4 on Poker Stars and I was up against a regular, a TAG player with stats of 19/15/3.  We’ve played together a little bit, and he knows I can make some moves but that I am generally tight.  He raises the button (as he often does) to $16.  I’m in the BB with KcJs and elect to call, as by 3-betting I may get myself into a big pot out-of-position with a dominated hand, and I don’t want to fold since he has attempts to steal the blinds at 33%.  KJo is too strong of a hand to fold to 33% stealer.

The flop is 7s6c5d.  I check and the button bets $30.  I make it $80 and he calls.

The turn is the Ts.  I check and the button bets $160 and I fold.

Ok, it didn’t work that time and that’s poker.  But think about it this way – he’s raising so many hands that can’t continue on that flop that he has to give up so much of the time.  Hands like any two broadway cards can’t continue.  Most suited aces have to give up, as well.  He’d be hard pressed to continue with A6.

And I’m not doing a pure bluff; it’s more of a semibluff.  If he calls, I might hit a K or J and have the best hand.  Hitting top pair on the turn might lead to some tough situations but more often than not we’ll be winning the pot.

Also, next time he raises my blind he’ll think twice about it.  He knows I can play back at him lightly and that my blinds are not going to come without a fight.



[1] Please never limp AA and KK.  It will get you in very tough situations postflop and will rarely get you more action from a worse hand.  Just raise it and hope someone makes a hand.

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Are you looking for more information on getting tricky? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Part VI: Advanced Play in Online Poker

You understand how to play a tight, solid and aggressive style.  You know how to use your position to exploit the fish and outplay the TAGs.  You know when it is a good time to value bet and when it’s a good time to check behind.

You recognize board texture and understand how to act based upon it.  You’ve even picked off some river bluffs with marginal hands because of the pot odds you were being offered.

You understand 90% of what it takes to be a winning poker player and most likely are by now.  Still, there’s always more money to be won and by understanding the unique and tough concepts of shorthanded online poker you will begin to CRUSH the games.

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Part V Summary

Always be putting your opponent on a hand range and acting accordingly.  To me, this is one of the most important concepts in hold ‘em.  It takes experience to be able to read an opponent’s hand well, but once you get a good grasp on this, you will be unstoppable.

The button is your friend.  You can play a wide variety of hands on the button in a wide variety of ways.  Raise limpers, play back against raisers who will be out-of-position against you, and steal the blinds often from the button.  It’s your biggest moneymaker, position-wise.

Consider your implied odds.  A bad pot odds call might be a correct implied odds call.  Be careful, however, about overestimating your implied odds.

 Usually don’t bet an O.K. hand when it’ll never get called by worse.  It’s important to play for pot control in position when your hand is O.K. but there’s no point in betting.  In these spots, we want to get to a showdown as cheaply as possible.

Semibluff often.  It’s a very profitable and powerful move in your arsenal.

Play carefully when deep stacked.  If you’re 200 BBs deep and getting all-in with one pair, you are probably doing something wrong.  Play for pot control with more hands when deep stacked.  Be more apt to call large bets with draws when you are deep since your implied odds have increased

Against good opponents, you’ll have to think deep.  The mind games really start when people know how you’re playing and you know how they’re playing, and you’re both good enough to start adjusting.  It takes experience, but if you’re one step ahead of your opponent, you’ll be making the money in the long run.

Always be conscious of your image.  Slow down with a bad image.  Open up your game with a good one.

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Are you looking for more information on outplaying your opponents? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
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Chapter 32: Image in Online Poker

Sometimes at a table, you’ll raise three pots in a row and not win a single one.  Your image is not good and won’t get much respect.

Sometimes at a table, you’ll win two big pots in a row with good hands.  Your image is good and you’ll get respect when you bet.

Sometimes at a table you’ll be card dead and won’t have played a hand in 25 hands.  Your image is tight and you’ll get respect when you bet.

Your image is how others at the table perceive you.  In the fast and furious world of 6-max poker your image can change very quickly based on the previous hands.

Your opponents all have images they are portraying to the table as well.  Some are aware of it and some aren’t.

Your image

Having a grasp of your own image will help you greatly when deciding how to react to what your opponents are doing (or predicting how they’re going to react to what you do).  Many players are short-sighted and only remember what has happened within the past half hour to hour when it comes to what they think your image is.

You will play some opponents so often they will know what your standard image is, so little bumps in the road won’t affect how they view you too much.  However, you can certainly do some things, like 3-betting a ton or going on tilt, that will change their minds for the short-term.

A good image.  Having a good image means the other players feel you are playing a solid game.  This usually occurs when you’ve not been out-of-line aggressive and have been showing down good hands.   It also means that your opponents still think you can make a move or two.  A well-balanced image.

Think of it this way; if you’ve been betting and raising a normal amount but keep showing up with good hands when all the money goes in, people are going to be more reluctant to call you down lightly or bluff you.

With a good image you can get away with more bluffs in the right spots.  You will be bluffed less.  You might even be feared a little more and can bully a little bit until they pick up on your increased aggression.

A bad image.  When you are playing a lot of pots and not winning them, your image is going to be bad.  When you keep showing down losing hands, you’ll start to get less respect when you bet and raise.

It’s quite incredible how quickly players change when your image becomes bad.  If you’ve lost a big pot or two or been caught bluffing a couple times, the amount of folds you can get on bluffs decreases dramatically.

It’s much easier to play with a good image than a bad image.  It’s almost bizarre how much better things will work out for you with a good image.  What you are trying to do with your bets, raises and calls will work out much better.

A nit image.  Sometimes you are just so card dead you haven’t won a pot in what feels like hours.  You haven’t put in a big bet postflop.  You may have called preflop to hit some sets and folded to the flop bet.  There’s a good chance everyone else has noticed as well.

If people think you are a nit, they will respect your big bets but play back at smaller ones, figuring you will fold unless you have a huge hand.

Manipulating our image

How to use our image to our advantage should be fairly obvious: we do the move that has the most positive expectation against what we expect our opponent to do given what he thinks of us.

If he thinks we’re tight, we put in a big bluff when we think he thinks our hand is a very good one.  If he thinks we’re out-of-control and on tilt, we tighten up and play solid, waiting for a good hand to get paid off.

It’s all about staying one step ahead of the competition.  When I notice I have a bad image and am not getting respect, I tighten up immediately.  I raise less preflop and don’t make as many bluffs.  When I have a good image, I open up my game a little bit but not too much.  I don’t want to turn my good image into an overly aggressive image.

Take little steps in the other direction of your image, not big ones.  If you’ve been playing tight, you don’t need to 3-bet every hand preflop and double and triple barrel everything in sight.  Just 3-bet a little more, double barrel a little more, check-raise a little more.

For example, let’s say I’m playing $3/$6 on Full Tilt.  The table is mostly comprised of solid TAGs.  The past three orbits, I’ve raised the button when it’s folded to me.  The next orbit, it’s folded to me again and I have Kh6h.  While I would raise this hand about 90% of the time that it’s folded to me on the button, here I elect to fold it.  I know that my recent image is that of a constant blind stealer.  I feel I have less of a chance to steal the blinds and my hand is too marginal to hit many flops or play back with if I get 3-bet.

From this example you can see what I mean by little changes.  I’m always aware of these things at the table and am making small adjustments.  I never tighten up too much in these spots, as the button is still a big money maker.  But I cut off the more marginal stuff as I anticipate they are going to play back at me lighter.

Using my good image to increase my double barrels is a postflop example.  Let’s say I’m playing $2/$4 on Absolute Poker and open Ts9s UTG to $12.  First off, I like to raise suited connectors on occasion in early position, especially when my image is one of a solid player who is not to be messed with.  The CO, a tighter TAG with stats of 17/13/2, calls.  I put him mostly on small to medium pocket pairs here as he generally would 3-bet his big pocket pairs and he would not call other hands like suited connectors in this spot.  The button and the blinds fold and we’re heads up.

The flop is 7h2d2s.  I bet $20 and the CO calls.  I keep my read on him that he has a pair from 33 to TT.  It’s also possible he’s slowplaying 77 or 22, but that’s so rare I’m not that worried.

The turn is the 6h.  Normally, I’d just give up here against most opponents.  I just don’t feel they are folding enough to a bet.  However, I know that in the last few orbits, I’ve only shown down very good hands and not been caught bluffing.  I’ve bet my good hands with big bets and given the fact I raised UTG, and thus am expected to generally raise good hands UTG, I can really represent a big pair by betting again.

I take all this into account and bet $60 into $67 pot.  My opponent thinks for a little bit, and folds.  In his mind, he doesn’t have much other reason to think I am doing anything but betting a good hand here since all he has seen me do is just that – playing good hands and betting them big.  That is my image in his mind.

Again, some of your opponents are multi-tabling robots or are just too dumb to notice this stuff.  Try to pay attention to the tables at all times.

Our opponent’s image

For the most part when analyzing an opponent’s image, we should be looking for the same things that we look for in ourselves.  If you’re up against a good, thinking opponent, you can assume he is making some of the same assumptions we are.

Generally, however, most players are either too bad to adjust their game based on their image or they are playing too many tables or not focusing, thus they are not really taking image into account.  There are two things I look for that can really change an opponent’s image, however.

The “tilt” factor.  Always look for an opponent who loses a big pot, especially when it’s a bad beat.  He could be going on tilt and spewing hundreds of dollars in every direction.  Also look for a player who wins a big pot.  He may start to loosen up and play more pots since he is now winning big for the session.

The last three orbits.  It’s almost like an unseen force, but what your opponent has done the last orbits at that table can slightly alter his play.  If he’s been more aggressive, keep an eye out for more aggressive moves.  If he seems to be folding a lot, he’s playing tight for whatever reason, and you can react accordingly.

A note on when an opponent is playing more aggressive than normal.  Sometimes an opponent is either getting a hot run of cards or he is aware that he just made a few big bluffs.  They may actually play tighter than usual after a few orbits at the table like this.

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Are you looking for more information on image? The best way to become an expert is from online poker training sites such as Deuces Cracked. They’ve helped improve my game tremendously. Check them out by clicking here.

09. August 2012 by Skilled Online Poker
Categories: Chapters | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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