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Out of Position? Don't Be Frightened.

Out of Position? Don't Be Frightened - Bodog Poker Blog

By: Paul Hewson
 
One of the first concepts new poker players need to understand is position. You have to take turns when you play poker, and since poker is a game of incomplete information, it's usually best to go last. That way, you can react to what your opponents do with at least some idea of what cards they might have. You, meanwhile, could still have anything.

Unfortunately, you don't get to choose whose turn it is. Someone has to go first, and when you're playing Hold'em, Omaha or Omaha Hi/Lo, that person is the player seated under the gun. If that player chooses to open, he or she will always be out of position against everyone else post-flop – everyone except the blinds, that is. If the player is in the hand, the small blind always acts first post-flop, then the big blind. That makes playing out of the blinds difficult, even if you're getting a good price to call.
 
Standard Time
Difficult doesn't have to mean complicated. When you're playing out of position, your options are limited, and many of the best decisions you can make are quite standard. For example, if you call someone's opening raise from the big blind in Hold'em, your best move on the flop is almost always to check. Making a lead bet out of position (also known as donking) should be saved for special situations that don't come up very often.

Here's another move you should avoid: calling out of the small blind. You don't get as good a price to call as you do from the big blind, and you're going to be out of position post-flop. Plus, there are only a few hands you could have where calling would make sense – medium pocket pairs and weak suited Broadways are the obvious candidates in Hold'em. If you call, your opponent can put you on a very narrow range of cards. Might as well just 3-bet or fold instead.

But what if you open from under the gun and the button 3-bets you? Don't panic. Again, this is a good spot to either 4-bet (if you have, say, pocket Tens or better, Ace-King, or Ace-Queen suited) or fold in Hold'em. Things will get more complicated in later position, where you might call OOP with suited connectors and such, but even those situations can be studied, practised, and made second nature. That's the best position of all to put yourself in.

Smart Drugs for Poker: Consult Your Physician

By: Paul Hewson
 
You're probably on drugs right now. It could be caffeine, or Xanax, or Anchor Steam, but it's in your system. Maybe you take something specifically to help you play poker. Or maybe you're thinking about it, but you're not sure it's the right thing to do and you're looking for some guidance. You've come to the right place, and here it is: Consult your doctor.

Seriously. Only your doctor is in a position to tell you what you should take – and to prescribe it to you, if it's something you can't get over the counter or in your grocery aisle. But I am in a position to inform you about what other people are taking. Here are three things in particular you should investigate thoroughly and think very hard about before you even consider using them.
 
ADHD Drugs (Adderall, Ritalin, et al)

These are the big ones. They've been prescribed to millions of schoolchildren over the past few decades; whether or not all those children really have ADHD or a similar cognitive deficit is up for debate. Baseball players and other athletes who used to pop greenies before games are now getting suspended for using Adderall. It's the same stuff, basically. Will it help you play better poker? Yes and no; these drugs can help you focus and put in more volume at the tables, but studies have shown they can also impede divergent thinking – the ability to see multiple potential outcomes, like what might happen if you 3-bet this guy.
 
Beta Blockers

In a way, these are the opposite of ADHD drugs. They limit your body's ability to absorb and use adrenaline (and noradrenaline), thus calming you down. Beta blockers have become increasingly popular among performers who have to audition for gigs, like actors and concert violinists. They can also have potent side effects, like sleep disturbance, hair loss, and erectile dysfunction. This is why I don't do auditions.
 
Marijuana

Weed is arguably the most popular drug in poker – not including booze, of course. There are many positives and negatives when it comes to the sticky-icky, not the least of which is its legality in your neck of the woods. Again, you'll have to consult your doctor. Your actual doctor, not the guy around the corner who'll rubber-stamp your medicinal marijuana certificate. In theory, if you can limit your intake to one small hit or two, you can get some cognitive benefit from weed. But it's like that Steve Martin joke: You'll only take it in the late evening, or occasionally in the early evening, or the mid-evening, or maybe the early afternoon...

Yes, You Should Fold Aces Sometimes

bovada-poker-pocket-aces

By: Paul Hewson

You're sitting at the poker table playing no-limit Hold'em. Here come your cards: two shiny black Aces. Bullets. Pocket Rockets. It's the best possible starting hand in the game, and you fold without giving it a second thought. Wait, what? You folded Aces preflop?

Yes, and it was absolutely the right thing to do. That's because you're playing in a satellite tournament, and you already have more than enough chips to make it past the bubble. Context is everything in poker; if you had played those pocket Aces, you would have risked losing chips and maybe getting bounced from the tournament – and for what? Just because they were Aces?
 
Bad Beats, Bad Beats

Folding is one of the biggest challenges poker players face. This is a game, after all, and when you fold, it feels like you're choosing not to play. If feels even worse when you fold what looks like a premium holding. But that's poker. Folding is part of the game, just like betting and calling and raising. If the situation dictates, you should be willing and prepared to fold any two cards.

Remember, pocket Aces are not invincible. Just ask Conor Drinan; he famously had his Aces cracked by Cary Katz' Aces at the 2014 World Series of Poker Big One for One Drop. There was only a 2% chance of that happening once they went to showdown, but the board ran out with four hearts, and Katz had the Ace of Hearts in his hand. Or ask Matt Affleck, who had his Aces cracked by Jonathan Duhamel's pocket Jacks at the 2010 WSOP Main Event. Duhamel went on to win the tournament for a cool $8.9 million.
 
Regicide Is Painless

Of course, if you're not playing in a satellite, then there's not much reason to fold Aces preflop. But what about Pocket Kings? This is another hand that beginners are taught never to fold, but in theory, it can make sense to fold KK, even in a regular cash game. Let's say you're playing 6-max NLHE, 100bb deep. The lojack (under the gun) raises, and you're in the hijack (middle position) with KK, so you 3-bet. Everyone else folds. The lojack 4-bets. You 5-bet small, and the lojack jams all-in.

Believe it or not, this could be a good spot to fold and save yourself the last 50bb or so in your stack. What cards would the lojack be shoving with here? Perhaps Aces, Kings, Queens, and Ace-King suited, if they're solid enough. Against that range, your Pocket Kings are about a coin-flip, so sure, go ahead and call. But what if you know your opponent is tight? If they're only shoving Aces and Kings in this spot, you'd better fold, because your KK only has about 23% equity. Do the right thing, even if it hurts. The consequences of doing the wrong thing are much, much worse.
 
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Heads-Up: The Purest Poker

By: Paul Hewson
 
It's been over a year since researchers at the University of Alberta “solved” heads-up limit Hold'em. There is no actual solution to poker, thanks to the hidden cards and the luck of the draw, but heads-up LHE is a fairly simple game – simple enough for the computers to crack, at least.

Eventually, they'll solve heads-up no-limit Hold'em, too. But why wait? There's a reason why they call heads-up the purest form of poker; if you're serious about the game, you can develop a reasonably sound strategy that will beat most of your opponents in the long run. And if you can win at heads-up NLHE, you can figure out from there how to win at 6-max or full-ring NLHE.
 
Let There Be Range                                                          

Heads-up can seem intimidating at first. If you started out like most people at tables with six or nine players, the quicker pace of heads-up poker can take some getting used to. You'll be playing many more hands per hour, which means you'll be making more decisions and taxing your brain. You'll also be opening and defending with very wide ranges; theoretically, you'll have to open with nearly any two cards, and 3-bet with suited one-gappers and such.

On the plus side, since it's just you and your opponent heads-up, you don't have to worry about getting squeezed preflop, or playing in multi-way pots post-flop. That simplifies things tremendously. The set of decisions you'll have to make will be contained, you'll repeat the same plays over and over again, and you'll eventually be able to make these decisions close to automatically – thus taking much of the strain off your brain.
 
Turn, Turn, Turn

There's one other thing about heads-up that takes some getting used to: the blind structure. The only two positions at the table are the small blind (which is also the button) and the big blind. In heads-up, the small blind opens the betting, but once the preflop round is over, the big blind is first to act post-flop. This can be confusing to players used to 6-max and full-ring, where the small blind always goes first in blind-vs-blind situations.

One other warning about heads-up: Watch out for bumhunters. Some of the better poker players will spend all day sitting at a table waiting for a “customer” to show up. This shouldn't be a problem at the lower limits, but if you want to avoid shark-troubled waters, you can open a table yourself. As always, play in short bursts at limits you can afford and keep learning away from the tables. Your poker skills will develop accordingly. Maybe you'll even be the one to “solve” heads-up NLHE down the road.

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