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Marc Weinberg's Poker Insider Column
Marc Weinberg is a senior editor for Online Poker Insider, and writes most it's featured columns and strategy articles. Poker Insider is a high quality poker site, and we feel privileged it's senior editor has decided to share some of his highly valued knowledge and expertise with our readers on a regular basis.
Marc Weinberg will contribute a weekly column to our site in the coming months, covering all sorts of poker subjects, from poker strategy to poker room reviews. We are already very impressed with his first column, titled the "Worst Starting Hand in Poker", and look forward to all his future contributions. Make sure you also check out his website, Poker Insider, it ranks among the best in the poker community in terms of good, unbiased poker information.
Bodog Poker only launched in September of 2004, and yet their player volume levels are already competitive. As far as I am concerned this is the most critical aspect of a new online poker room: Do they have games at every stakes level at all times of the day? The convenience and speed of online poker is a huge selling point, and if the poker room fails to deliver instant gratification it will inevitably fail. Bodog Poker still needs to grow in terms of high-limit cash games, but their guaranteed tournaments do cater effectively at every level, professional poker players included. There are numerous other positives about this poker room, which I intend to discuss, but the bottom line is that of the many new potential poker destinations on the Internet, that seem to spring up on a weekly basis, Bodog Poker appears the most likely to survive and ultimately succeed.
Like thousands of other online poker players I am hopeful that this is the first article in a series. The second installment will be "How To Cash In The WSOP Main Event", and the third and final piece will be entitled "How To Win The WSOP Main Event". I know what you're thinking: He's delusional, or at best daydreaming like some sad slacker whose other grand scheme is to win the lottery. I know this because I've had the same thoughts, and yet lately I've come to realize that dreaming big is a vital component if you intend to make it big in poker. Playing in these online qualifiers is a fairly quixotic pursuit in the first place. But once you win a seat, as I was fortunate enough to do last weekend, it feels a lot less like tilting at windmills and a lot more like a cogent plan of action to take down $10 million.
A lot of people are currently trying to play online poker as a full-time career, or at the very least are serious about making a steady monthly income from poker. For many that means grinding out eight hours a day multi-tabling in cash games (playing several tables simultaneously) while others focus exclusively on tournaments. Let's address two important questions here. Should you specialize as an online poker player and only play one variant of poker? Are players with a specific style (a rock say) or specific skills (analytical players who can calculate table odds quickly) better suited to one variant of poker as opposed to any other?
The significance of table selection is common to both online poker and poker in your local card room, and executing this aspect of the game requires observation of the other players. It has little to do with statistics, and much to do with your past experience as a poker player. It is with experience that a good player is quickly able to identify potential donors at his table, or conversely to reach the equally important conclusion that he is the only donor in sight.
What underpins this modern-day revolution, which has seen millions of people drawn to online poker rooms? There are a lot of very good reasons to play poker online, but one primary motivator that dwarfs the rest: Online poker affords everyone the opportunity to become rich and famous. It is at once a slight hope but completely egalitarian in scope, to progress through online qualification rounds (known as satellites) and emerge on television at the final table of the World Series of Poker or the World Poker Tour competing for millions of dollars.
It’s hard for some people to realize this, but too much of a good thing can indeed have negative repercussions for the person who believes the indulgence can continue unabated and indefinitely. That sixth cupcake, eighth pint of beer, or tenth consecutive check-raise will suddenly offer you very little in the way of benefits and plenty in the way of harm. And yet, many online poker players behave as though the check raise is the only way to play a hand. The concept of value betting is as foreign to them as the guys were who came out on the beach to welcome Columbus.
There is a hand selection paradox that operates in tournament poker, and which is exacerbated when playing in an SNG. When fewer players are involved in a pot the value of starting hands increases. If there are 10 of you at the table KQ is a marginal hand. Heads-up it is a very strong holding. So, you might think that you should play KQ very conservatively early on, but push it aggressively in the late stages. However, and here comes the paradox, it is more advantageous to play this hand aggressively early on.
I play in a lot of Sit 'N Go (SNG) tournaments and if you look at the distribution of my results you will see that I either go out very early, very late, or end up winning. The one place you won't find me is anywhere in the middle, finishing between 5th and 8th in a 10 person field and that's by design. Hand selection in the middle stages of an SNG changes for me, because my focus has changed: I want to get to the payout structure (final three places), and I am not willing to gamble as aggressively until that is achieved.
When you are three- or two-handed at the end of a Sit 'N Go you need to loosen up your starting hand requirements considerably, and you also need to play your position aggressively, but now is the time for smart tactical play rather than throwing caution to the wind.
Poker is a betting game first and a card game second. Most mediocre players do not understand this, which is why they are fixated upon the cards they are dealt. When they lose, which is often, they blame those cards alone. Winning with bad cards is a trick that only the lucky can master. It never occurs to these players that the way they bet their hands is crucial, and that’s why these players ultimately lose. Good and bad cards are dealt out to all of us in the same proportion over time. Luck evens out, and winners tend to make their own luck anyway.
In October of 2005 Daniel Negreanu, undoubtedly one of the best poker players in the world and also an incredibly shrewd individual in general, posted a series of blogs about playing in the biggest cash game in the world (held in "Bobby's Room", which is in an enclosed section of the Bellagio's poker room). In these blogs he gave us all a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a poker pro, and the strange relationship they have with money. It is this relationship which I want to analyze, because it seems to me that their attitude in this regard is what separates the great players from those that are merely competent on a technical or book-smart level.
A soft poker game is one that is very easy to beat. Never feel that you are “too good” for a game because of the stakes, and never feel that you are a fish because the stakes are high. Soft games have nothing to do with limits, and everything to do with how you as an individual player match up against the rest of your table. The key to making money at poker, which is after all the primary reason to play in the first place, is to identify these games. It should be a simple process, but it really isn’t, although hopefully this article will make it easier for you to spot them in future.
Titan Poker is a fairly new poker room, and as a result playing here has certain distinct advantages as well as some minor inconveniences. Titan Poker offers some of the best promotions of any poker room, including the $100 Million Jackpot Freeroll, with a guaranteed $500,000 prize pool and a $100 million jackpot for showing a Royal Flush of Spades at the final table. The software is very advanced and looks good, and there are a number of features that distinguish this room from competitors. The standard of your opponents at Titan Poker is weak, and that is a very big plus as well. The inconveniences are a relatively low number of cash players in the ring games, and some functionality issues, but both of these can easily be attributed to growing pains, and Titan Poker should grow into a great site to play online poker.
For those of you who are completely unexposed to the colorful language of poker, "Big Slick" is the popular term for Ace-King hole cards, either suited or unsuited, in Texas hold'em. At this year's World Series Of Poker a number of pros began calling AK "Anna Kournikova" instead - it looks fantastic but never wins anything. Inside every jest is a little kernel of hard truth. There are many ways to play Big Slick poorly, and far fewer ways to play it well, so let's take a closer look at some common mistakes and ways to prevent them...
On the surface there appears to be little difference between the two most popular formats of hold'em, and certainly one finds that inexperienced and mediocre players do not alter their strategy regardless of whether it is limit or no limit. For these players it is simply a matter of looking at their hole cards, and then saying if they match up nicely with the board. Sure, the betting is not the same: in limit you can only bet a set amount that is dependent on the stage of the hand, whereas in no limit you can bet any amount of chips available to you at any point of the hand. This subtle difference actually sets off a chain reaction of strategic shifts.
There's a touch of blasphemy in this article, at least for some poker players, so consider yourself forewarned. The issue I intend to explore is whether Doyle Brunson's famous advice for playing no-limit hold'em in his Super System books should be applied to no-limit hold'em tournaments. I believe that the strategies outlined by Texas Dolly, while undoubtedly brilliant for no-limit cash games, are not as uniformly successful when employed in tournament poker.
A number of solid poker players have argued that Sit 'N Go online tournaments are valuable because they simulate final table conditions that were previously only available to players who made it deep into the field of a major tournament. In fact, single table online tournaments are very different from any final table experience, and have to be approached in a unique way. Furthermore they represent the single most profitable opportunity for serious poker players who want to generate a consistent stream of income from online poker.
One of the biggest differences between online poker and live-game poker is the fact that establishing a table presence is worth so much less in the online scenario than it is in your regular card room. However, all hope is not lost, for online poker offers an easy solution that restores this critical edge for good players. That solution is the single-table tournament, also known as the Sit And Go.
Stats junkies will tell you that the worst starting hand in poker is 27 off-suit, and they have the computer models to prove it. I would like to throw my hat in the ring and argue that AQ is the worst starting hand in online poker, because it is the single most overvalued hand, and consequently the easiest hand to play incorrectly in poker
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