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January 2016

An Overview: What You’ll Need to Develop a Wining Poker Game.

There are many facets to playing winning poker; two of major importance are your knowledge and thought level. Defining what you need to learn compartmentalizes the issues, allowing you to focus on the most important aspects and simplify the learning process.

Crucially, you’ll need to develop strong strategic knowledge to play well. Strategic learning will be a never-ending process. The good news is that there is an abundance of good books, videos and computer training materials available to acquire this knowledge. Some people think poker is about common-sense, and you can play winning poker just by familiarity and basic wisdom. Those are the folks you’ll want to play with after you’ve studied up! Don’t underestimate the level of knowledge required, it’s considerable.

Additionally, you’ll need to develop concentration and awareness. Poker requires that you gather and process information. The more you’re aware of, the better your decisions.
You’ll also need to develop a linear analytical process, to define and think through situations and be able to logically analyze complicated poker circumstances.

Develop your people-reading skills. Learn to analyze opponents’ thoughts and emotions. It’s the road to reading their holdings. Get good at this, and you’ll be able to read, not just their current hand range, but also their potential future actions.

The mental skills will come with focus and practice. Learn the strategies, and utilize them at the table. Use your time well at the table; grow your game and mental skills by keeping your mind on the game, and go over every hand played and your opponents’ thought process.

Over time, you’ll gradually develop great skills and feel for the game!

Bet-Sizing and Pot Building

How you size your bets hugely influences the pot’s size. And while player tendencies, effective stack sizes, and ranges are the main components of bet-sizing, understanding how your bet-sizes influence future play is important to know.

What you bet now shapes the pot size and affects future bet sizes. Which pot size you’re looking to create is an issue for another day; the concept here is how to size your bets to build the desired total pot.

Say you’re playing $1-2, open for $6, and are called by one opponent. With $15 in the pot, a half-pot bet on the flop would be $7.50, making the pot $30 on the turn if called. A half-pot turn-bet of $15 makes the pot $60, setting up a $30 bet on the river for a total pot of $120 if called.

Now, say you want to bet 2/3rds pot on every street. With the same pre-flop action, an approximately 2/3-pot bet would be $10 on the flop, about $24 on the turn for an $83 called pot-size, and around $55 on the river for a total pot-size of $193.
But, if your wagers are pot-size, you would bet $15 on the flop, $45 on the turn and $135 on the river. A three-street called hand swells the pot to $405.

Different bet-sizing creates very different pot-sizes. What pot size you’re looking to create is a function of other issues, but knowing how a pot escalates based on bet-sizing is an important thing to include into your strategic planning. Think about how the pot-size will play, and how it should affect your decisions?

Do it correctly, and your conclusions will be more precise!

Mix It Up, Shake Them Down!

Bad players generally play too many hands or play them very poorly. But there’s another, often overlooked method of playing terribly, playing in a very predictable manner.

When even non deep-thinking opponents can get an accurate read on your tendencies, they’re will make fewer -EV plays against you. And when talented opponents’ get a precise read on you? Well, you’re just going to get toasted. You need to deceive your opponents, keep them guessing, and cause them make mistakes.

One way to do this is to widen your range. Balance your range with bluffs and value bets so that your opponents are unsure which you’re executing. I’m not saying to wildly bluff in spots in which your bluff doesn’t show +EV, but to locate situations in which a bluff would work. If opponents aren’t calling your value bets, start bluffing them with your air and missed draws, and trapping them with your value hands. If he catches on, reverse it up! Once you’ve got them confused, you’ve alleviated your strategic leak.

Another method is to create an alternative perception. Let them think you’re a non-bluffing nit, and once you think they see you that way, pick a spot to bluff, preferably a large pot with bet-saving opponents. Repeat until called. When called, say something like “I can never get away with a bluff,” and find yourself another spot. Once they’ve altered their perception and perceive you as a bluffer, cut down on your bluffs.

Cat and mouse games like this are a huge part of winning poker, particularly once you rise to a level where you’re playing thinking opponents. Don’t let your opponents create effective lines of play against you. Create enough deception in your game so that you’re unreadable.

And if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, find a way to baffle them with BS!

“The Cooke-Berman Team”
Realty ONE Group
Roy and Misty Cooke with Bea Berman
702-376-1515 Roy and Misty
702-271-2577 Bea
“We appreciate your referrals”

You can read all of Roy’s Previous Poker Tips at

Playing Your A-Game, All the Time!

Playing poker well is a great deal about consistency. It’s about both learning an “A” game and habitually playing it. Learning strategies comes from studying, focusing on the game, books, videos, computer programs and discussions with other good players. But, many who realize an “A” game, fail to consistently apply it.

Discipline and concentration are essential poker ingredients. You need the discipline to prepare and maintain yourself to play your best. I often see knowledgeable players, burned out, unfocused, playing sessions in bad games because they are stuck and can’t emotionally handle losing. Being well-rested, feeling your best and having a clear mind free from personal stresses will improve your decisions. Often, we are not aware when our mind has deteriorated. Take the time to enhance your self-awareness.
Concentration makes you aware of the nuances of the game you’re in. There is huge edge in knowing your players, thinking about exploitive plays that work against them, and analyzing and learning from your mistakes.

How’s your concentration? Is your mind on the game? Are you playing with your phone? Are you going over hands as they play out? Are you contemplating about how your opponents are thinking? Are you deciphering your opponents’ ranges? Actualizing all this takes a lot of mental energy, and you’ll need to develop concentration skills. Some of this comes from personal health development: the healthier you are, the clearer your thinking and the better your concentration.

Practice! The more you concentrate, the deeper your concentration develops. Awareness, including self-awareness, and concentration are essential ingredients to successful play. Making your decisions based on the highest level of information attainable to you will both help your game and your growth.
Being in tune with yourself and your surroundings has huge value. When are you at your best? Are you a morning person or a night person? Are you in the mood to play competitively, or are you just dutifully putting in your hours? Is the game you’re playing soft enough to be worth playing? Are you comfortable in the game? Are you relaxed with the stakes? Does it fit your style? Are you emotionally affected from a bad beat, going on a rush, or personal issues?

A less knowledgeable player who nearly always plays his “A” game is likely a bigger favorite than one with better knowledge who’s inconsistent. Some players have very wide proficiency ranges and while they know how to play “A”, they play their “F” game way too often. It’s easy to become bored, complacent or emotionally affected. Don’t fall into that trap. Be self-aware, think things through!

I understand these things are easier said than done, but you’ll be amazed at the difference in your results if you consistently actualize your “A” game.

Raising in No-Limit

I’ve spent most of my life playing limit games and have only recently joined the NL festivities. When I delved into the game, I was astonished how many concepts and plays performed dramatically different.

One such is raising. In limit, if you raise, you may get rerasied, and at worst you’ll lose another bet, more accurately the negative expectation portion of that bet. In NL you can get rerasied and be forced to either call a large wager in relation to the pot or fold. If you call a larger wager, you’re odds are greatly reduced, and if you fold, you’ve cost yourself your hand equity and any future implied odds.

For this reason, you assume much greater risk raising in NL. That is even more true is your opponent(s) are aggressive and capable of reraise shove bluffs and semi-bluffs. For that reason you should be much more cautious with your NL raises.

I’m not saying you should never raise. Raising should be in your playbook. But keep in mind the risks and assess them accurately. Correctly done, you’ll find you won’t be getting blown off your equity as often. Yes, there are times you’ll lose some value, but if you avoid getting shut out of your equity in some scenarios, it will be a winner overall

Fancy Plays

The term “Fancy Play Syndrome” was coined by Mike Caro. It designates the psychological yearning to invent creative plays that are non-fundamental in nature for amusement or to show off. Of course, those players justify it the plays by thinking they have an edge, most don’t.

Solid play of solid cards is generally the best option, particularly, though not always, in limit play. But NL offers lots of opportunities for non-standard creative plays. And those that don’t take advantage of them end up missing out on many profitable opportunities. Errors in poker aren’t the just mistakes you made, they are also opportunities you failed to capitalize on.

Most players, particular those new to poker, focus on learning an ABC style of poker. In this situation you make this play; in another situation you make a different play. It’s relatively easy to learn and you can beat weak opposition playing a quality ABC game. But as you start playing deep-thinking opponents, they adjust to your play, and in order to be able to play at their level you need to constantly adjust to their adjustments.

It gets complicated. And it requires a conceptual understanding of poker. If you understand why you make a given play, you can locate situations in which the concept is applicable. By understanding why a concept works, you’ll envision “fancy plays” that can exploit situations.

For instance, you might notice a given player calls you with position on a draw-heavy board, and thinks you’ll check a draw on the turn, but bet a made hand. Whenever you check the turn he bets and if a draw doesn’t hit bets the river again. You should check some made hands to him, and check them twice if the draws don’t hit. By doing so, you get him to bluff his air, thereby getting value from his air range. And/or you might want to check the turn and bet the river when a draw hits in an attempt to get him to fold stronger hands in his range, assuming he’s capable of making big laydowns. Whether either a play is correct depends upon the pot size, effective stack size, bet-size required and your opponent’s tendencies, but the point is you need to think about non-standard options as a way of achieving additional edge.
Taking the time to think through your opponents’ thought process, and design exploitive counter-plays will give you lots of opportunities to create edge for yourself that others will miss. It will add further value to your game by making you much harder to read.

However, if you’re doing “fancy plays” because you want to be perceived as smart by your opponents, or for that matter, yourself. Mike’s right! Don’t do it.
Poker is a game of logic; remove your emotions and psychological nuances from your game. You’ll play much better if you do!

It’s the Spread that Counts

Winning money at poker over time is not just about having an edge, though that’s a necessity. The amount you win is determined by how much spread there is in ability between yourself and the field minus your costs. The expense of rake and tipping affects that spread.

We’re programed from early childhood to cherish victory; it’s winning that counts. And in most games that’s true. If you’re playing football a 7-6 victory is a win, and it doesn’t really matter if you win 52-0 or 7-6. But in poker whether you win $1 or a $1,000 makes an enormous difference. Contrary to what many believe, you’re not playing poker to achieve a good win-loss record; you’re there to win the most money you can over time. And taking that concept into account will improve your overall success.

Obviously, it’s much better to win 40% of your plays and be ahead $1,000, than win 80% of your plays and be $100 ahead. But many players fail to grasp this issue. Emotionally, they feel better when they’re winning, causing them to quit great games small winners and conversely play in poor games when stuck in an attempt to “claw out”. But what they fail to remember is that over time, the spread in effective edge is what makes you the money.

That means that you should play in good games when you’re winning, rather than quitting to ensure a win. You should quit bad games when you’re losing, and your spread is either small or non-existent. You should change games when a much better game is available. You should develop skillsets in games/situations where your spread in edge is high. You should not push yourself when you’re not playing your best, and you should push yourself when you are playing your best. You need to have the a self-awareness to know how well you’re playing. And you should maintain yourself mentally and physically to exploit the opportunities that present themselves.

It’s also important to not be too afraid of good players. Assuming you play reasonably well, you’re unlikely to be giving up much to them. The big edge comes from the weak players. Don’t judge your game solely by who plays well, quantify it by the number and quality of poor players.

So, if you’re in a game and you don’t think there is much spread in ability between yourself and your opponents, and the situation is not likely to improve soon, find a different spot. That spot might be at the next table, or it might be the next day, or the coming weekend. But, if your poker goal is to win money, don’t sit in spot where your edge is small or non-existent.

Your time would be better spent working on your game.

Play to your Strengths


Poker is a game of many skills, mathematical, psychological, memorization emotional control, etc. Different games require different skillsets. Few people, if any, have the entire range of skills for all circumstances. Being human, it’s important to stay in your element, play to your strengths and avoid your weak areas. Fail to do that and you’ll crash.

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Have you thought about how they pertain to different poker games? The skills to play NL are different from those to play limit. High-limit skills are different from low-limit, etc. It’s important to find your niche and place your main focus on that arena.

If you’re good at reading tells, stick to lower limit games where the inexperienced players are more prone to have them. Are you an aggressive individual who likes to gamble and can handle the swings? If so, play shorthanded and lean towards NL where aggression has more value, everyone swings more, and your strengths give you greater value.

If you’re a patient, risk-adverse individual who doesn’t like to bluff, then low limit games are a good fit. If you’re emotionally controlled, learn a high swing strategy to maximize that strength and make that weakness in your opponents more pronounced. If you’re a math-oriented individual, learn hi-lo split games where the math has a higher value. If you like and are good at studying hand ranges, play no-limit where that knowledge is critical.
Good recall is more important in some games than others, such as stud and NL. If you’ve got a photographic memory, gravitate to those games.

There are many aspects of us all that correspond to poker. Ascertain your strengths and weaknesses, which games/limits are a good fit for those strengths and which you should avoid because they match your weaknesses. Chose games and limits relevant to your skillsets.

Yes, I live in Las Vegas where the game selection is extensive. If you don’t have that luxury, you’ll need to adjust your strengths to your situation. Learn what’s most important in the games you play and work on those aspects.

Obviously, it’s best to develop all aspects of all games. But most people don’t have that much time to devote, nor are they that flexible. Recognize and work within your element and don’t stray off course. Think about your strengths and how they pertain to poker, work towards your strengths and try to eliminate any weaknesses within that element. Do that and you’ll have given yourself your best shot at success.
And at the end of the day, that’s all you can ever ask of yourself!


Few players survive poker’s mental, physical and emotional war of attrition. Even if your knowledge is solid, you need the strength of character to perform consistently to make a good living at poker. Most good players perform well for a short period, but become “flashes in the pan.”

Why?…. Because they can’t handle poker’s physical, emotional and mental stresses.

Many pros and semi-pros are run down, sleep-deprived, unexercised, overworked, overstressed, and deteriorating physically and mentally. That deterioration persists until the completely player burns out and loses some of his poker abilities. That deterioration often starts a downward spiral: you start playing longer hours in less profitable situations to make up for the shortfall. It can be never-ending!

As a player, you need to guard against burnout. If you wait until it develops, you’ve waited too long. Take the steps to keep your mind and body healthy. Don’t burn yourself out playing immense hours trying to get even or because the game is good.
Even if the game is great, is it really worth grinding out the extra hour or two and exhausting yourself? Think what your HR is? Is it worth it? Relax and take it easy, you’ll improve your propensity to survive the “test of time.” When you push yourself too hard, your mental energy and concentration are so weak that your expectation is far below usual.

To avoid burnout, don’t push yourself. Know your limitations. Don’t play too long or too high. Avoid high-stress situations. Don’t stretch your comfort zone too strongly. Take your beats without emotion. Try to get as much enjoyment from the game as you can. Take breaks, walk around and have an exercise program to reduce the toll of the hours of sitting. Maintain good sleep habits. Have a personal life and separate it from your poker life.

Poker has a high cost of success, but if you do it right, a successful poker life a can be a happy one. To me, the most important issue at the end of your life is to be able to look back at a happy one. Many professional players, even the very successful ones, are cynical, dispirited and unhappy.

Don’t let yourself fall into the poker world’s traps period! Play the much more important game of life the right way!

Play Well and Good Luck!

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