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Another word of advice

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Jelle   Belgium. Jan 27 2007 18:45. Posts 3476

by Jelle Van den Eynde



This part of the guide is intended for those players who have been playing one or two months with my old guide and have moved up at least one level in stakes already. Don't ignore this warning because you will burn yourself badly if you skip the first guide. Much of the advice here is the complete opposite of what you should be doing in your first two or three months.

The strategy in my old guide was to play very few hands and rely on people's tendency to call way too much. It still seems enough to make new players start off winner while gaining experience. All they need to do is start out at $0.01/0.02 no limit, which isn't that hard for deadbeat gamers. Most of the advice in that guide was not "absolute". It's okay to play like that when you have no experience yet, but as you get better, you shape your own style with different starting hands and tendencies.


I've always loved strategy games. Like many of you I used to play starcraft (just thinking back what a beast of a game that was, with it's intricate strategies and interesting players... but oh well) but I also enjoyed playing chess as a kid and I am trying to learn a very interesting board game called "Go" right now. Poker is a fantastic game too, and it fits right in that category of games that you can continue to improve in endlessly, but I never seemed to treat it that way. Even when my bankroll was $160 and I was all-in for $10 of my precious money, I couldn't relax. I wasn't thinking "did I make the right decisions in this hand" and enjoying the strategy of the game, I was thinking "please please please let me win this one". When I had a lost 15 buyins in a day recently, I was so shook up that I posted it here in an obvious attempt to get sympathy. One of the first replies was a picture of a tissue box.

Today I play with a 60 buyin requirement, which means I played 50nl until I got up to $6,000 and then gave 100nl a shot. This is probably one of the most conservative bankroll management strategies of anyone around. I've never had more fun in poker before. If I honestly believe I should go all-in on a bluff, I do it. When he calls, I am interested to see what he had, but not upset about the money loss. I learn a lot while I play because I am not afraid to try something new.

When you played brood war, did you start with the same build order every single game? Of course not. We all had a favourite build that we used more often, probably, but all of us would occasionally be in an adventurous mood and try something new. I bet some of the most meaningful and fun broodwar games you played were the result of an adventurous opening just like that. But in poker, because there is money involved, a lot of us are stuck in a pattern of play that prevents us from learning and strategizing. It doesn't have to be like that.*

You may think that a 60 buyin requirement will slow you down badly and prevent you from accomplishing your goals in poker, but it really won't. The difference between the amount you make at higher limits isn't that big at all because the opponents are also better when you move up and you are playing less well when you're under pressure. The main thing about building a bankroll fast is just getting better and playing a ton of hands... you don't need to move up in limits quickly.

Even so, we should still realise that being stuck in a pattern of play is actually a good thing when you're a beginner. I advised exactly such a pattern of play in the first guide of the guide. You should definitely play like that until you have a huge bankroll for your stakes and have gained a ton of experience (at least a couple hundred thousand hands).


The difference between the average player and the liquidpoker player is that we are all constantly trying to get better. That's why we win, it's not because we're smarter than everyone else. When I was playing 10nl I was always trying to guess which two cards my opponent held. When I guessed wrong, I said "damn, I was wrong" and was sad that I made the wrong play. When I happened to be right, I felt proud of myself for making the right play. What I didn't understand is that in many situations it's impossible, for anyone, to figure out exactly what your opponent holds. You have to put him on a range of hands. This makes it very hard, in poker, to figure out if someone made the right or the wrong play, even if you see both players' cards at the showdown. I remember playing a hand with pocket tens. I raised it, got heads-up, and flopped an overpair. I continued to bet on every street including the river and my opponent called all the way and showed a pair of jacks. The truth as I see it is that we both played badly. Let's say my possible hands, with the way I was playing at that time, were aces, kings, queens, jacks and tens. He only figures to beat 1 of those hands, lose to 3 and tie with 1. The pot isn't laying him enough to make this "long distance call" a profitable one. If I could also have been bluffing regularly or value betting with a few smaller pocket pairs, then his calls would have been profitable. I on the other hand played badly as well, if jacks were his minimum hand for calling me down with. I think that post-hand analysis is one of the most important things in the game, and it's something that most losing players are extremely weak at.

Let's say that we are the guy with the pocket jacks doing the calling in that hand. Our read of this player tells us that he could be betting with pocket Aces through Sixes (this will of course rarely be the case in reality, but I just needed this example), but very rarely with other hands. If this assumption is correct, we should call on the river. We do and he shows us pocket aces. So were we right or wrong? The answer is that we still don't know.

In the example above, our opponent can't show us anything to "prove" that we were wrong to call him. If he shows us two sixes, it is reasonable to assume that we were right, though. Perhaps calling stations are people who instinctively realise this? At any rate, this is one of the many things that contributes to all of us thinking we are awesome at poker, even though we all have much to learn.

When you are bluffing, it is actually easier to judge the effeciency of your play when he calls. Perhaps he will show you a hand you didn't think was in his range, making you say "wow, was he really that strong?". Or maybe he will show you a hand you thought was in his range, but you thought he'd fold with. When this happens, people type: "omg what a donkey.. calling with that" in the chat box. They should be typing "excellent call, sir". After all, when he called, he said to himself "I think he is bluffing here so often that I should call even though I can only beat a bluff". When you showed him a bluff, you proved him right. Taking a note on this player would be a smarter thing to do than berating him in the chat box.


As we talked about in the last chapter, it's very hard to tell "who was right" in poker. In addition to that, someone gets lucky in every single hand you play. The combination of these two factors makes poker the one game where people have the least respect for eachother. In starcraft, there were colorful names referring to popular strategies. "Gundam rush", "Bulldog Toss", etc. In poker, the two most popular strategies are called "Calling station" and "Weak tight". Not exactly a name anyone would be proud of. Even the professional players we see on television are regularly referred to here as "donkeys".

Despite this, I have advised a "weak tight" strategy (i wish it had another name) for beginners in my first guide. It worked. I am also convinced that "calling station" would be an excellent strategy in some games. I've never noticed such a game/had an opportunity to play like a calling station, but I hope that one day I will. It must be fun to call everything all the time.

My ability to show other people a little bit of respect has helped me a lot. I haven't seen anyone else who is able to do it, except in very obvious cases. One time people were berating B-Buddy (if I remember correctly?) and nazgul said he was actually an excellent player. It literally takes a phil ivey for most people before they realise there's a threat. If you can identify the winning players at your table and why they are winning, your results will improve greatly. I only play 100nl, but there are still numerous players I play cautiously against. Not everyone who plays shaky starting cards is a donkey.

Even losing players have their strengths, and if you ignore those strengths you will turn them into winning players. I used to bluff calling station at micro stakes, then tell them they were donkeys. How much more stupid can I get?

Another example is when I watched ElkY play in a tournament. The stacks were short and winning the blinds and antes was very signficant. I watched him take pot after pot and increase his stack massively until someone finally reraised him. Our man had pot odds and called with ten-three offsuit. The other guy had something like Ace-Jack. ElkY drew out on the guy and became one of the chip leaders. Without exception, everyone at ElkY's table was calling him a super donkey. What they all failed to see was that if ElkY had lost that hand, he would have still had more chips than before he started stealing blinds and antes. This is what I call the "best hand" obsession. It seems to be common amongst the pokerstars 100nl players right now. As long as they had the best hand when they go allin, everything else is to be ignored. If they lose, it's a never before seen atrocious bad beat.


There's a common warning in a lot of the poker books out there. Be careful not to bet a hand that will only get called if you are beaten. This advice is, in my opinion, doing a lot of beginners more harm than good. First of all, this concept is only applicable on the river card. A lot of times I've watched a beginner say "Well, I'll only get called here if I'm beat" when he was discussing the flop. So what? Even if this is true, it may still be worth it to bet just to reduce your opponent's chances to win the hand from, say 25%, to 0%. If you think you have the best hand, it's almost always a nice move to bet. Bet bet bet bet bet. Even on the river card, this "I'll only get called if I'm beat" style of thinking is costing people money. People will often surprise you by calling with something worse than you expected. Try to guess the minimum calling hand of your opponent whenever you bet the river for practice. The beauty of thin value bets is that the more you do it, the more people will think you're overaggressive, and the more they'll want to call you.

If you are the kind of guy who says things like: "well, if I bet this pair of aces weak kicker, he'll only call me something better" then you are probably not very consistent in your thinking. If you really think people need top pair big kicker to call you, why aren't you constantly trying to bluff them? The answer is that deep down you realise that if you try to bluff these people, they will call you with second pair. So be consistent and value bet when it looks like they don't have much and you can beat second pair! (or third pair or ace high, depending on who you're playing with)

This inconsistency seems to occur more in players with a timid nature like myself. What's going on is your brain is making up excuses so that you won't have to put any more money in the pot. I guess that people with a gambling nature experience the same thing, with their mind making up irrational excuses just so they can put more money in the pot.

I was just watching "poker after dark" today and David Grey folded Ace-Queen offsuit to Daniel Negreanu's raise. What in the world was he thinking? He was debating wether to call or fold. It seems to me that the only reasonable play is to reraise, since Daniel enjoys raising a huge range of hands. David may have been folding Ace-Queen to a raise for so long that he doesn't even consider the possibility of reraising anymore. Ironically, Daniel made a straight that hand and I bet David Grey thought: "phew, glad I didn't play my Ace-Queen because I would have lost to a straight". I don't mean to disrespect David but in that particular hand I sure think he played terribly.

Yet another example is when an overaggressive player sits down in a game full of timid players. The timid players will say: "this guy has nothing at all, I can't wait until I pick up pocket aces so I can win this donkey's money" It just doesn't make sense. If you think he has nothing, why wait for aces? In the final table of the first poker superstars invitational, Howard Lederer, a player I admire, went out by reraising Gus Hansen with Ace-Nine offsuit. Gus happened to have Ace-Queen (if I remember correctly) and Howard didn't improve. In hindsight, I think Howard's style of play figured to get the best of Gus (who was playing every hand) and he was unfortunate. Howard is certainly known as a tight player, but he is not "asleep at the wheel", donating pot after pot. If you are a tight player, you should try to be just like that.


I hope to add more advice to this text in the future, but for now that's all I have to say. I hope I helped someone out!

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GroTLast edit: 02/11/2008 20:53


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