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Poker Tips

Applying Your Range Reads

Many novice players place their opponent on a specific hand. For example, “I put him on AK.” But in reality, there are almost always other hands that the opponent would play in the same manner. For that reason the correct approach is to place your opponent on a range of hands, estimate the probability of each of those hands, and base your strategic decision on how your hand plays against the totality of that range.

Many online equity calculators such as Flopzilla will calculate your “run out” equity against a given range. And while how your hand does against an opponents’ range is important when facing possible all-in situations, it’s not an all-inclusive method to determining the most optimum play. NL hold’em has other play options than moving all-in and running out the cards. To optimize your play, you’ll need to think about how specific lines of play work against a certain portion of his range, and then calculate how it works against the other portions of his range. The line of play with the highest blended EV against the totality of that range is the optimum play.

The point being, when there are other alternatives to being effectively all-in, thinking about how the hand will likely play with differing strategy lines will often create better options that just determining your equity based on a run out. For example, maybe you’ll size your bets lower to keep more of your opponent’s range in his calling range. Perhaps you’ll bluff the river small since a lot of his range is whiffed draws.
The critical concept is that the correct play doesn’t depend on how much equity your hand holds based on a run out, but rather how can you play your hand to obtain the highest EV possible? Often you’ll find a better line of play when considering all your options and not just basing it on current run out equity.

Compartmentalize your opponents’ range into segments, a drawing segment, a segment that the nominal ranking beats your hand, and a segment that you nominally beat. Do a range analysis and determine what the odds are that he holds each portion of those segments? What is the best line of play against each segment? How does the best play in one segment effect the value of the other segments? Make a best guess estimate of how your hand plays EV-wise against all those segments utilizing differing lines of plays. Select the best play!

Yeah, it’s complicated. You’ll have to do a lot of work away from the table to get a feel of it. Additionally, you have to have a good read of your opponent’s ranges. But over time, with focused experience, you’ll train your mind to accomplish these tasks.

And when you do, you’ll be a much better player.

Roy’s Strategic Live Play Learning Tools


The advent of high speed computers processors and the building of poker knowledge from previous data have advanced poker knowledge dramatically in the last 15 years. The game has passed by many top players from the pre-2000 era who haven’t kept on top of the knowledge growth. There is a wealth of poker information out there these days, some good, some bad. It’s much easier to study wise men’s knowledge than figure it out for yourself. Let me recommend the best path to growing your NL game.

First, it’s important to understand the game conceptually. I am not a fan of learning strategies by rote as too many NL situations fall outside standard situations. If you don’t learn how to optimize your play in those situations, you’ll leave a lot of equity on the table. To make those adjustments, you need to understand the game’s concepts.

The basic concepts are in David Sklansky’s “The Theory of Poker. ” As you read this book, think deeply about how these concepts apply to your game. Ed Miller’s “The Course” explains the levels of knowledge you’ll need to grow your game from the 1-2 level up to 5-10. I also think “No Limit Hold’em” by Sklansky and Ed Miller has a good basic knowledge foundation that puts you on the right path. I would read them in that order.

Once you’ve digested those, you’ll want to study poker’s nuances. I’ve signed up and am very much impressed with the video/forum site, It’s run by poker superstar Phil Galfond, and he’s brought in many high-level players who develop videos along with Phil. What many lack in presentation skills is made up for in the quality of information given. You can sign up for two levels, “Essential” and the “Elite.” If you’re not beating the game, start with the Essential. Elite is for those with a deep understanding of the game.

You also need to have the mental strength and demeanor to play well. Alan Schoomaker and Jared Tendler have book series that deal with the mental aspect of the game. You should study these also. Both put out good psychological material. Don’t underestimate the mental game’s importance; it’s huge!
If you’re a live player, you should learn tells. Mike Caro’s book of tells was the first book to deal with the subject and has much good information. I also like Zachary Elwood’s books on tells.

These recommendations are for those developing their game. I’ve excluded some books that I like that I felt were too complex. “Applications of No-Limit Hold’em” by Mathew Janda is the foremost. It’s full of good information, but digesting it takes a high level of poker understanding. I receive nothing from any of these recommendations, all are based on merit.

All that said, this is hundreds of hours of effort. But to become a high quality player, you need to know this information. Make the effort to PREPARE to win, and winning will come. The best poker players, like the best chess players spend endless hours studying their own and their opponents’ games.

You’ll be amazed at the difference this will make in your results!

A Relative Thing!

Everyone knows that position is important, but many don’t understand the importance of relative position. It refers to your position relative to a raiser and the next streets likely bettor. If other players have to react to the bettor before you do, you have good relative position. If you have to act before they do, you have bad relative position.

With poor relative position, you assume the risk of being rerasied by opponents yet to act, don’t have information about what they will do and lose opportunities to trap them.

Say you hold two fives pre-flop in NL hold’em and an aggressive continuation bettor immediately to your right raises. Your hand has less value than if Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor was five players in front of you and two of your opponents had called in-between. Reason being, when Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor bets, you have the opportunity to trap the in-between calling players for high-value bets should you flop a set and raise.
Another scenario where relative position takes on major importance is in limit hold’em volume pots. Unlike NL, you want to “protect” your hand, or more precisely lower your opponents’ odds to call. In cases where you’re looking to protect a one-pair hand, you might want to flat an aggressive continuation bettor pre-flop in order to raise on the flop and protect your hand. By doing so, your opponents are forced to call a double bet with the threat of additional raises. If they do, their price is reduced. If they fold, their pot-equity is removed.

A positive to being in poor relative position is the fact that you can sometimes bluff-raise the raiser when he continuation bets weak. This shows a high level of strength and forces other opponents to call the raise cold.

There are many elements to relative position, too many for this short tip. But, always consider how your hand plays relative to your opponents’ position and whether you should you adjust your strategy. Tighten up your hand selection, particularly with hands that prefer post-flop volume, when you’re immediately behind an aggressive continuation bettor. Make more post-flop raise-bluffs. Loosen up when your odds are increased by having players between yourself and the continuation bettor, even more so if they are prone to call frequently.

Do it effectively, and you’ll trap more customers when you flop a hand and get trapped much less!

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!

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