Whether you are a beginning player or someone who has been
playing poker for decades, we hope you will find the articles
here of benefit. Many of these were published in Card
Player Magazine, where Lou Krieger has been the "On
Strategy" columnist for almost a decade.
you would like to comment on any of these articles, ask questions,
or request articles on specific subjects, please use the Feedback
form. In addition to writing poker articles, Lou Krieger
conducts seminars on a variety
of poker topics.
The World Series of Poker: How Big Will It Get?
As if things weren't pumped up enough in 2003 when a record 839 players entered the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit Texas hold'em championship at the World Series of Poker, this year the head count grew more than 300 percent when 2,576 players ponied up $10,000 for the chance to win $5 million. For a while it seemed like there might not even be a 2004 World Series of Poker. In early January 2004, U.S. marshals seized $1.9 million to satisfy debts and forced the closure of the 52-year-old property's casino.
For weeks no one could tell you what the casino's fate would be. And if the casino's fate was up in the air, so was the fate of its biggest asset: the World Series of Poker. But when the Horseshoe reopened under the management of Harrah's Entertainment on April 1, only 3 1/2 months after its closure by U.S. marshals, the die was cast for the biggest poker tournament of all time - a record that might even last until next year.
Pot Odds Made Easy
Figuring pot odds is a necessary part of any poker player's game. Without it, we don't have any way of knowing whether the odds against making our hand are offset by this fundamental relationship: How much will it cost to keep playing this hand and how much money am I likely to win if I catch the card I need? By understanding the relationship between the odds against making our hand and the money we figure to win if we get lucky, we can play skillful high percentage poker instead of treating the game like some form of gambling.
Because some players have difficulty with the concept of pot odds and others stumble over the practical task of calculating them in the heat of battle, it's time to demystify and sweep out whatever confusion still surrounds this subject. Best of all, no arithmetic is required at all because a handy chart is included to help new and experienced players alike.
Small Pairs and Smallish Connectors
Lately I've seen a spate of questions posted to the Internet newsgroup, rec.gambling.poker and other online poker forums about how to play small pocket pairs properly and what to do when you're dealt smallish connectors. Questions like these may seem elementary if you've played poker for any length of time, but with so many newcomers taking up the game it's well worth reviewing some basic concepts every now and then.
Small pairs, and we're talking about a pair of sevens or lower, can be thought of as drawing hands of sorts. And if you think of them that way, you shouldn't go too far wrong. After all, a big pair, like aces, kings, or queens, frequently wins without improving. They're that good. But a small pair usually needs help. And other than sticking its nose in the midst of a 7-6-4 flop and getting lucky on the turn or river, a pair of fives can only improve by flopping a set.
A Poker Makeover
Makeover shows are clearly TV's next big thing, and with poker shows running a close second, why not combine them into a brand new show? We'll call it "The Poker Makeover" and play it on one of those channels in dire need of ratings. If they have enough money available to fund the production of a pilot, who knows ¾ maybe it'll be the hit of the season.
The show begins with out poker makeover team arriving at your cardroom and plucking you unceremoniously out of your seat after showing the viewing audience what our hidden camera has already uncovered: A load of flaws in your game. Nothing mysterious here, our Poker Makeover cameras have uncovered the "…usual suspects," and if you, dear reader, have been losing more money and losing more frequently than you think you really should be, perhaps this makeover is for you too.
Capitalizing on the Poker Boom
There's a poker boom on right now that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who plays regularly. A brave new world of players has been created and they're coming to a casino - be it the traditional brick and mortar casino or the online variety - near you. Many of these new players haven't yet learned to play very well, have more money than skill, and many of them have even taken what they've seen of shorthanded, final table play on television and applied it to cash games, with predictably dire results.
So where does that leave you, a regular poker-playing aficionado with a lot more experience and presumably much more skill than the TV generation of players who seem to be flooding the games these days? There's opportunity, to be sure, but how best to capitalize on it - that's the question.
Why TV Poker Can Give Bad Advice
We'll all look back on 2003 as a watershed year for poker; the year it exploded in popularity. Some say it's the advent of the "lipstick camera" ¾ a tiny device that shows each participant's hand to the TV audience and allows viewers to think along with the pros who are up there on center stage competing for million dollar payoffs ¾ that accounts for poker's new found popularity. Others will tell you that poker is a game whose time has come. Be that as it may, the current fascination with poker is guaranteed to accomplish two things: First, it will send droves of new players into casinos and cardrooms everywhere, just aching to be dealt in. Second, if they learned their poker from watching TV, they learned wrong!
Poker: You Can Quote Me on That
column marks a milestone for me: my 200th article for Card
Player. My personal celebration involved perusing each
of my 200 columns and pulling my favorite poker quotes to
share with you. I don't know if any of these will make it
to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, but if someone ever complies
a book of quotable poker quotes, I hope to see a few of mine
those of you who are numerically challenged, or statistically
phobic, this is for you: A simple, easy-to-use, paint-by-numbers
piece on the mathematics of poker.
Are there identifiable betting patterns you can spot
in a poker game, and can you use this knowledge to gain an
edge on the opposition as well as to improve your own game? Awareness of betting patterns serves a
number of purposes that run the gamut from tracking the playing
styles of your adversaries to tracking down some parts of
your own game that may need improvement.
cheat sheet for first time casino poker players
I lived on cheat sheets in high school and college. Maybe you did too. Cheat sheets were little three by five
index cards crammed full of all manner of information needed
for the next exam. These
little study aids helped me get over.
They got me into college, and into grad school too.
You can use this same process to improve your poker,
particularly if you are new to the game, or are about to make
the jump from kitchen-table poker to the faster paced casino
You'll find entire books on poker
strategy based primarily on the concept of making hands that
dominate those held by your opponent, and avoiding situations
where yours in the hand being dominated.
If this concept is new to you, here's how it works. If I'm holding A-10, and you have A-K,
my hand is dominated. Miraculous straights and flushes that
might accrue to A-10 notwithstanding, I have three outs and
three outs only to win this pot.
It's not glamorous. It's not memorable, but it is our basic bread and butter play, and we do it more often than we do anything
else. We fold.
While we're used to reading about those big confrontations
upon which reputations are made and myths are created, there's
generally a lot of down time between watershed events. It's
high time we created a better appreciation for the unglamorous
act of laying your hand down, avoiding the fray for the time
being, and saving your money for a better situation.
The single biggest mistake made by most poker players is that
they call when they should have folded. After all, most recreational players come to play –
not to lay down their hands –
and many get involved in pots with weak, unplayable
There's a line to an old Del
Amitri song saying something about being "...wired and
tired." There's something about playing poker for 15
hours straight that does it to you, especially when it comes
hard on the heels of a 5:00 AM wake up call, a dash to the
airport, a flight from Palm Springs to New Orleans with the
usual scurrying about required to change terminals and planes
at the ill-designed Houston Airport, a cab ride to the terminal,
and the laborious procedures required to board cruise ships
in this era of heightened security.
But late afternoon finally came and the ship slipped
her moorings and began gliding downriver to the Gulf of Mexico. The cruise was officially underway and the cards were soon
in the air. That
first night at sea I played poker until the wee hours of the
morning. The next two days were also at sea so
I played cards the entire day, and all day and evening the
next day too...
at the final table of The World Series of Poker, inside the
mind of one of the world's best poker players
Most of us play poker as a game
of cards. But it's a horse of a different color at the World
Series of Poker's big kahuna, the $10,000 buy-in, no-limit
hold'em event. For the participants it is totally involving, intense, and
tension filled. But
the fact that all this stuff takes place inside the mind and
is not at all visible to poker fans can be frustrating.
So when a terrific hold'em player takes you inside
his mind and shares his successes and failures with us, it's
noteworthy and newsworthy too. Russell Rosenblum made it to
the final table of the 2002 WSOP in second chip position. He didn't win it; but what's fascinating
is that Russ was able to recall almost all of the significant
events that transpired and is willing to share them.
He did this in a long post to Rec.Gambling.Poker that
I consider one of the most significant in the newsgroupÔs
history, and Russ has given me permission to reproduce it
just as he wrote it, so that you can understand how deep the
wheels within wheels go at the final table of the World Series
Visualizing a playing zone enables the analytical player to
zoom in on how likely some cards are to help opponents, while
understanding that others might not help at all. Suppose you’re
playing $20-$40 hold’em with A-Q in the big blind and
someone raises. You call, along with a few others. The flop
is Qs-Jd-Tc. So…do you like your hand? You’ve
flopped top pair with top kicker, and that combination wins
plenty of hold’em confrontations. But there are dark
clouds too. Those three cards that flopped were all in the
playing zone – that area where many other active players
are likely to have holdings.
for the money
The best 7-card stud, eight-or-better, high-low split (7-stud/8)
hands are generally low holdings that can back into high hands
too. Everyone knows that. But all low cards, of course, are
not created equally, and an ace is stronger than any other
card you might be dealt. It’s the biggest high-card
as well as the smallest low one in the deck, and there are
more options available to a skillful player whose starting
hand contains an ace along with two other low cards…
Limits: Poker's World Series
As I drove off into the dawn of a new day, I thought about
the amazing hand that allowed Alan Goehring to eliminate Kirill
Gerasimov in the finals of the World Poker Tour’s inaugural
2003 season, and how Chris Moneymaker emerged from a $40 Internet
event to play his first live tournament ever and beat 839
players over five days, winning $2,500,000 and poker’s
most prestigious event in the process. Gerasimov won two satellites
just to gain entry into the WPT finals, and Moneymaker is
a guy who worked two jobs to support his wife and three-month
old daughter. These are incredible, improbable stories, and
it’s nice to realize that the age of miracles is still
with us, even if only at the poker table.
theory without games
Despite its name, game theory is not really about such leisure-time
diversions as Monopoly, Parcheesi, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit.
It’s a branch of mathematics that deals with decision-making
and has applicability in fields as diverse as economics, political
science, operations research, military science, and poker
– where the idea is to optimize a decision rather than
about betting patterns
If you examine your own play, as well as that of your opponents,
one pattern of particular interest is how often you or your
opponent calls a bet on the river. Calling too frequently,
only to find that the call was made with a losing hand, cries
out for some corrective action if you're the one calling and
losing most of the time.
On the other hand, if your opponent is calling and
losing most of the time, you can profitably increase your
betting propensity on the river...
in cyberspace: The brave new world of online poker
If you’ve wondered about whether playing poker on
the Internet is for you – whether in play money games
just for practice, in learning environments such as Poker
School Online, or for real money in cyber casinos –
but you just haven’t gotten around to it yet, this piece
should be spot on. We’re going to answer most of the
frequent questions we’ve encountered about playing poker
online with facts, and with as little spin as we can muster.
"Playing backwards" isn't something you see too
much of in lower limit games, nor in very high limit games.
Where you do tend to find this phenomenon is in mid-limit
games, and it's generally practiced by good players, who are
not yet great players, but think they know more than they
really do. For some reason many good-but-not-great players
go through a phase of checking the kinds of hands they really
ought to have been betting, and betting when they should have
checked or folded.