Saturday, June 23, 2007


Full Tilt's Poker Strategy Guide

The other poker book I picked up was the Full Tilt "Poker Strategy Guide" book and I was very pleasantly surprised by this. It's really good. Recently on 2+2 I made a comment along the lines of the tournament book which takes it to "the next level" will have to talk about stealing and restealing with regard to stack sizes. This is the book that does it. I wasn't expecting much more depth than the Email tips they send out (which are fairly basic) but I liked three sections in particular because they went into a lot of detail and were basically in tune with some things I have been mulling over, as follows :

- Andy Bloch sets out a framework for unexploitable pre-flop raising. He does this by working out how many hands you raise with in each position such that if your opponents behind you play back with half the hands you raise with (which is basically what they should do), you'll steal the blinds often enough to make a profit on the steal itself, and of course then some more with post-flop play and the possibility of having a big hand. So if your opponents play back with fewer hands than they should, you make money stealing the blinds ; and if they play back with more hands than they should, you make money from the extra hands they call with because your range is in front. This is something I had thought about doing at one point but basically couldn't be arsed :-). So it's quite handy someone doing it for me for $30. This tells me that, when not short-stacked, I should be raising for value with more hands in late position and calling reraises with more of those hands. There's a fair bit more besides in this chapter, including "game theory" heads-up tables which basically mirror the ones in MOP.

- Chris Ferguson talks about post-flop play with various hands. Now, I'm extrapolating from what Chris is saying here but this is something I've been thinking about on this trip. In a heads-up raised pot, what you can do is have a look at the flop and decide how many bets your hand is worth. So three bets would be a reasonable (maybe 2/3 pot) bet on each street, or a bet on the flop and a raise on the turn. A small pair might be worth one bet, top pair medium kicker two bets, an overpair three bets, and so on. So if your hand is worth X bets and you only have (or your opponent only has) X bets in front of him, then you're going with the hand and it's just a question of whether you want to make the bets or call them. If your hand is only worth one more bet on the turn then you might check and check-call the river, or bet the river if it's checked to you. If you put the "extra" bet in, you're bluffing, likewise if your opponent makes the extra bet then any call is trying to catch a bluff. While watching other hands, you make a note of who puts in "too many" bets for their hand. Obviously reads and turn/river cards come into play too, but the important thing for me is that this gives me a framework to rely on in the absence of any read. If I'm tired or possibly tilting then as long as I know how many bets I "should" put in, then I can hopefully at least stop and think before overplaying my hand for no reason. I'm still working this out. I'd be interested to know whether anyone else thinks along the same lines. Ferguson also agrees with Chen/Ankenman in that if you defend your blind with a call, then you should check the flop pretty much irrespective, and check-raise with a whole bunch of hands.

- Howard Lederer discusses he calls "leverage". With a big stack, this means making small(ish) bets and using the threat of future bets to take pots down without actually risking a lot of your own chips. One thing he stresses that I need to accept is that there's no shame in being knocked off a pot here or there, whether it's pre-flop or post-flop. In fact, this is necessary. You have to put some doubt in your opponents' minds. This helps you collect when you actually have the goods. With a shorter stack, Lederer fully understands the concept of the "efficient" re-stealing stack. He notes that when you're facing a pre-flop raise with say 25 blinds in front of you, it's a really invidious position to be in. If you want to play, you either have to call and try to play the hand out of position, or effectively commit your whole stack pre-flop, giving your opponent the option of surrendering his 3 BB raise or playing his hand for 25 BBs. Again, this leads me to conclude that I should be opening more pots in late position when the stacks are around this kind of size.

Those are the three sections that I really liked and think would be extremely valuable for a lot of players. And there's plenty more besides. Gavin Smith and Ted Forrest are well worth reading, and Lederer's limit hold-em advice is something I'm going to try out in the mixed event and the SHOE. Even Richard Brodie's online advice is reasonably accurate if not especially insightful. I'm not sure about the Omaha chapters but that's my weakest game so maybe I should reserve judgement :-). All in all I definitely recommend this book and yes I'm a sad fanboy but I asked Chris Ferguson to sign my copy when he was on my Stud table the other day. He said he remembered me from "Bar Beat" when I mentioned it but I suspect he was just being polite ... anyway he was a very nice guy.

Disclaimer : Full Tilt pay me a small fixed amount per month for the advert on the left hand side of this page. I hope you trust me enough to realise that this doesn't affect the review I give their book !

I read somewhere the other day that the best strategy for playing online poker games successfully was to play your hand rarely if you are not the big or small blind, and raise cautiously if you are!

Take time to feel out how other users play poker online. The main difference between playing poker in the real world and playing at an online poker site is the fact that you cannot see your opponents, thus making it harder to work out what they are thinking which in turn makes it harder to project their next moves... This is why patience is a crucial part of being successful in any online poker game.

Don't believe me? Try out the tactic on any one of the free online poker sites and see if you end up with more virtual cash than you started with... i reckon you will!

Follow this link for more tips on how to play poker successfully
Yep, just bought that book and haveonly read the 1st two chapter - well worth the money already. Howard Leaderes section is very good and something you can use straight away.
thanks for the tips. after reading your recommended text i feel confident to have a go at no limit texas holdem poker. Hope i win as often as when I played free online poker
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