» Poker Strategy A Heads Up Poker Strategy Blog Tue, 27 Oct 2009 01:39:54 +0000 en hourly 1 Play BluffBot – Heads Up NL Poker Bot/2009/10/play-bluffbot-heads-up-nl-poker-bot/ /2009/10/play-bluffbot-heads-up-nl-poker-bot/#comments Tue, 27 Oct 2009 01:07:10 +0000 Gugel /?p=505 BluffBot: A Pretty Advanced Poker Bot

BluffBot: A Pretty Advanced Poker Bot

SuitedAces made an amazing post on the HU Forums.  He’s a limit player that’s transitioning to NL and he brought up Hyperborean-Eqm, a poker bot that won the 2009 Poker Bot HU NL Championship.  Now Hyperborean-Eqm (made by a team from the University of Alberta) beat another poker bot, BluffBot for 1.8bb/100.  Unfortunately, you can’t play against Hyperborean-Eqm online, but you can play BluffBot!

And guess what, it’s actually not that bad!  I beat him (caught him bluffing in a big pot), but I was pretty impressed.  He adjusted pretty well to my game and it’s definitely an awesome learning tool.

I do wonder how much better Hyperborean-Eqm is and how long before a bot can grind out microstakes NL hold’em…

/2009/10/play-bluffbot-heads-up-nl-poker-bot/feed/ 2
My Bad River Bluff at $200 NL/2009/09/my-bad-river-bluff-at-200-nl/ /2009/09/my-bad-river-bluff-at-200-nl/#comments Sun, 27 Sep 2009 22:11:11 +0000 Gugel /?p=403 I’m playing $200 NL against Cricket Scores, a somewhat decent regular. We stacked off preflop when my AKs ran into his pocket queens. At this point, we’ve only played like 20 hands or so.

BB ($395.50)
Hero (SB) ($205.50)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Js, 2c
Hero bets $6, BB calls $4

Flop: ($12) 5c, 7h, 10d (2 players)
BB bets $7, Hero calls $7
This is the first time he’s donked into me, so I have no idea what his donking-range is. Folding here is definitely standard, but there’s a lot of cards that can come on the turn that I can bluff.

Turn: ($26) 10s (2 players)
BB bets $18, Hero raises to $42.50, BB calls $24.50
This is a really awesome card for me and if I call the flop, this is a must-bluff situation.

River: ($111) 7d (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets $55.50
Here, I think I made a mistake. There is absolutely no need to bluff here. I’m only getting weaker hands to fold (like 68 or 89). My jack high might be good!

He ended up shoving over my river bet and I obviously folded.

Before you fire out a bluff, always think about hands the villain might have that are stronger than yours and if the villain will fold those hands. If no stronger hand folds, then it’s a bad bluff! In this case, there just wasn’t many hands that the villain could conceivably have that are stronger than mine and would fold to my bet.

/2009/09/my-bad-river-bluff-at-200-nl/feed/ 2
Pot Entitlement – It’s Not Over Till It’s Over/2009/09/pot-entitlement-its-not-over-till-its-over/ /2009/09/pot-entitlement-its-not-over-till-its-over/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:21:10 +0000 Gugel /?p=278 Dont go to scoop up the pot before the hand is over

Don't go to scoop up the pot before the hand is over

In NL hold’em, a very strong hand on the flop can become a marginal hand on the turn or river. But people have a very hard time letting go of a flopped monster. I call this phenomenon, “pot entitlement”. Simply put, they feel they are entitled to win the pot, even when the board evolves unfavorably. I’m definitely guilty of this myself. In the following hand, I really, really wanted to call the turn since I flopped 2 pair, but a fold is correct.

Hero (Button) ($243.10)
SB ($107.20)

Preflop: Hero is Button with 4♠, 5♠
Hero bets $3, SB raises to $11, Hero calls $8

Flop: ($22) 3♣, 5♣, 4♣ (2 players)
SB bets $17, Hero calls $17

Turn: ($56) 2♠ (2 players)
SB bets $35, Hero folds

“But, Gugel, you flopped top two!” you say. True, but it’s a super dangerous board. If I raise on the flop, he’s going to fold all his air and get it in with hands that have good equity vs. me. It’s much better to wait for a safe turn (not a club, not a 2) and get it in. Unfortunately, the turn is a pretty disastrous card and the villain bets pretty big. The fact that I’m gonna be facing a river shove a huge percentage of the time and that my hand is super vulnerable even if I am ahead, makes this a fold.

Here’s another example:
Villain is a straightforward player that doesn’t get out of line.

Hero (BB) ($100)
SB (Button) ($100)

Preflop: Hero is Button with 7♠, 6♠
SB raises to $3, Hero calls $2

Flop: ($6) 7, 7, 9♣ (2 players)
Hero checks, SB bets $5, Hero calls $5.

Turn: ($16) T♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, SB checks

River: ($16) J♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $9, SB raises to $36.

A lot of people are going to call here because they flopped trips. Don’t fall into that trap. You’re not entitled to the pot. Always remember that the money in the pot is not yours until you showdown or the villain folds.  Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

/2009/09/pot-entitlement-its-not-over-till-its-over/feed/ 5
10,000 Hours/2009/08/10000-hours/ /2009/08/10000-hours/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2009 14:24:35 +0000 Gugel /?p=320

Back in May, I talked about the three things you need to master to become a great poker player.   But the key ingredient to greatness that I didn’t talk about is experience.  Beyond just playing lots of hands, experience includes watching training videos, getting coached, or posting in forums.  The more you play, the better you will get.  Just put in the time.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Max Gladwell makes the argument that in order to master anything, you have to put in 10,000 hours of work.  Assuming an 8-hour day, that 1250 days or about 3.5 years (with no days off).

Take Bill Gates. Before he dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft, he was programming like a maniac for 7 consecutive years.  Or take The Beatles.  When they got one of their first gigs in Germany, they played nonstop, all night long, seven days a week, for weeks on end.

Here’s a quick anecdote from Bill Buxton’s book Sketching User Experiences.

“A ceramics professor comes in on the first day of class and divides the students into two sections. He tells one half of the class that their final grade will be based exclusively on the volume of their production; the more they make, the better their grade. The professor tells the other half of the class that they will be graded more traditionally, based solely on the quality of their best piece.

At the end of the semester, the professor discovered that the students who were focused on making as many pots as possible also ended up creating the best pots, much better than the pots made by the students who spent all semester trying to create that one perfect pot.”

When I was in the 2 Months, 2 Million house this summer, I had a chance to ask Dani and Brian how much time they think they put into poker.  They said they definitely spent over 10,000 hours.

No matter how much talent you have, you have to put in the time in order to be successful.  Maybe 10,000 hours is not the magic number and it probably varies from industry-to-industry.  But I believe in the concept.  Poker is not an easy way to make money and just like anything else, it requires a lot of practice to master.

So here’s the practical, takeaway advice.�� Don’t set goals for yourself that are out of your control.  Whether you win $3,000 this month or not is something that’s not entirely up to you.  Set goals on things you can control, like playing a certain number of hours, watching a certain number of videos, responding to a certain number of forum posts, etc.  Put in the time and success will follow.

/2009/08/10000-hours/feed/ 1
How to Play 4Bet Pots/2009/07/how-to-play-4bet-pots/ /2009/07/how-to-play-4bet-pots/#comments Sun, 26 Jul 2009 20:58:19 +0000 Gugel /?p=315 In this post, we’ll talk about what you should do when you are on the button, you raise, villain 3bets, you 4bet and villain just smooth calls.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about…

Preflop: Hero is SB with Kh, As
Hero bets $3, BB raises to $10, Hero raises to $25, BB calls $15

These kinds of spots are easy when you actually hit a big hand on the flop, but are pretty challenging when you miss since the pot is already huge preflop (usually around 50BB).  The first step in developing a good 4bet pot postflop strategy is to understand the villain’s calling range.   In the over 170,000 hands I’ve played in HU, this situation has happened 153 times (that includes only the times we got to showdown).  So what kind of hands were the villains showing up with?

Pocket Pairs: Again, this is from a 153 hand sample.
22: 3
33: 1
44: 0
55: 2
66: 0
77: 1
88: 4
99: 4
TT: 6
JJ: 3
QQ: 1
KK: 0
AA: 5
There seems to be a big tendency for villains to call a 4bet with 88 – JJ and AA.

Top 10 Hands Villain Shows Up With: Again, this from a 153 hand sample.
AJ: 13
AQ: 7
KJ: 7
KQ: 6
TT: 6
AA: 5
88: 4
99: 4
AK: 4
AT: 4

Dangerous Cards: Villain has at least one of these cards in his hand.
T: 23 (15%)
J: 38 (25%)
Q: 27 (18%)
K: 30 (20%)
A: 42 (27%)
Jacks and aces are the most dangerous cards that can come on the flop.  A ten high flop is best to cbet bluff.  A flop that comes queen or king high is somewhere in between. 

This post was actually inspired my a 2+2 thread and is intended to just be the first step in helping you come up with a 4bet strategy (it’s very opponent specific).  Funny thing is, I had initially thought that a jack high board hit my opponent’s range the weakest.  The thread made me curious and look for hard data to back up my claim.  Guess I was wrong!  This just goes to show how important it is to constantly be criticizing and evaluating your own beliefs and assumptions.

Have something to add about strategy in 4bet pots?  Post a comment!

/2009/07/how-to-play-4bet-pots/feed/ 0
Playing Good When You’re Running Bad/2009/07/playing-good-when-youre-running-bad/ /2009/07/playing-good-when-youre-running-bad/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2009 13:50:05 +0000 Gugel /?p=310 Improving on the Hill

You'll see the biggest gains if you improve your play when you're running bad

Seth Godin had a great post on his blog today.  Even though he’s talking about marketing and customer service, his advice applies really well to poker.  Let’s say you have a bike race coming up and you obviously want to have the best time you possibly can.  The thing is,  everyone goes super fast on the downhill sections (limited only by physics and safety) and it’s really hard to get an edge on your opponents there.  On the uphill section though, through athleticism and will, you have a chance to actually make significant gains and do what your opponent cannot.

Poker seems like an easy game when you’re running well.  You’re hands keep hitting and you’re opponent keeps paying you off.  Well guess what, fish run hot too.  And when they do, they probably think poker is an easy game.  The truth is, a lot of your edge comes when you’re not running super hot – those marginal situations where a fish has no idea what he’s doing and you do.  Those are the uphill battles that you should set your sights on.

As Seth put it:

Most of your competition spend their days looking forward to those rare moments when everything goes right. Imagine how much leverage you have if you spend your time maximizing those common moments when it doesn’t.

/2009/07/playing-good-when-youre-running-bad/feed/ 1
Ryan Fee’s FREE 6Max eBook Review/2009/04/ryan-fees-free-6max-ebook-review/ /2009/04/ryan-fees-free-6max-ebook-review/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2009 19:20:10 +0000 Gugel /?p=211 Ryan Fee’s 6max guide is the best poker literature I have ever read. I read through the whole thing, cover to cover…twice. It’s really that good. And the fact that it’s free doesn’t hurt :)

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

1. A2-A5 are better than A6 and probably better than A7.
The advantage of being able to make a straight (though it’s rare) is pretty important. Let’s say you have A7 and hit a 7 on the flop. Is that really significantly better than having A5 and hitting a 5 on the flop? Or let’s say you hit an Ace on the flop. Is a 5 kicker significantly worse than a 7 kicker? Not by much. The benefit of being able to hit a wheel and winning a big pot probably counteracts any better pair/better kicker advantage A7 may have.

2. If you continuation bet the flop in a reraised pot, you should bet the turn.
If you 3bet or call a 3bet preflop, expect people to call your flop continuation bet with a wide range of hands. Their range shrinks considerably when calling a turn bet. In general, you should not cbet the flop in a reraised pot if you’re not going to cbet the turn.

3. Don’t play more than 4 tables.
You get your edge by developing strong reads on your opponents. Playing more than 4 tables makes that virtually impossible. There’s just too much going on.

Even if you don’t play 6max, I really encourage you to check out Ryan Fee’s 6max guide.

/2009/04/ryan-fees-free-6max-ebook-review/feed/ 1
Gugel’s Fundamental Questions of Poker/2009/03/gugels-fundamental-questions-of-poker/ /2009/03/gugels-fundamental-questions-of-poker/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2009 00:45:34 +0000 Gugel /?p=173 The Fundamental of Theory of Poker should guide every decision you make in a heads up match.

Note: In 6-max and fullring games, Morton’s theory might override Sklansky’s, but this is a HU blog, so we’ll ignore that for now.

Anyway, the traditional Fundamental Theory of Poker by David Sklansky states:
1. Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they gain.
2. Every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose.
3. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain.
4. Every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

What it boils down to is that you want to make the same decision you would make if you could see your opponent’s cards.  I know, easier said than done.

To help you out, here are Gugel’s Fundamental Questions of Poker.

Question 1: (Betting for Value)
If I bet/raise, what weaker hands call?

Question 2: (Bluffing)
If I bet/raise, what stronger hands fold?

When I first started playing heads up no-limit, I put these two questions on Post-It notes and stuck them on the corners of my monitor.  Before I made any decision, I would try to answer the questions.  Here’s the thing though.  Only ONE question should have an answer.  That means if you don’t have a good answer for at least one of the questions, you’re doing something wrong AND if you think you have an answer to BOTH questions, you are doing something wrong.  Everytime you are the aggressor in a HU match, one and only one question should have an answer!

What about if your decision is to call or fold?  All you need to do is ask yourself those same two questions from the villain’s perspective.  If the villain bet or raised, what weaker hands is he expecting to call?  What stronger hands is he expecting to fold?

Go ahead and grab some Post-It notes, gentlemen.

/2009/03/gugels-fundamental-questions-of-poker/feed/ 4
Why You Should Throw Pot Control Out the Window/2009/02/why-you-should-throw-pot-control-out-the-window/ /2009/02/why-you-should-throw-pot-control-out-the-window/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2009 15:43:46 +0000 Gugel /?p=143 Pot control is a good thing.  Unless of course, you go overboard.  It’s a big leak for many, many low stakes and mid stakes regs.  In fact, it’s probably one of my biggest leaks!
Let’s take a look at a hand I played recently.

Hero (Button) ($100)
SB ($101.50)

Preflop: Hero is Button with J♠, A♣
Hero bets $3, SB calls $2

Flop: ($6) J, 9♠, 3♠ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $5, SB calls $5

Turn: ($16) 8♠ (2 players)
SB checks, Hero checks

Why didn’t I bet the turn?  I was thinking “I can’t get 3 streets of value here so I’ll just check the turn and bet the river”.  But am I right?  Can I really not get three streets of value?  If the villain has JQ, does he not call 3 streets?

I posted this hand on 2+2 and Citanul was kind enough to send me a pretty awesome private message.  I’m sharing it with you guys (with his permission of course). 

I used to: raise pre, cbet flop, check turn, bet river a ton because “I don’t think I can get 3 streets of value, and I’d like to apply some amount of pot control here.” I’ve got to say that one of the biggest changes for the better I’ve made to my game recently is to stop thinking like that. I think that these sorts of lines are fairly standard in 6m-9m, tournaments, etc, but in HU, especially at the stakes we’re playing and against the opponents we’re playing, we’ve got to stop thinking like that.

In general, against most opponents, you’d rather bet flop and turn than flop and river, for a big pile of reasons.
First, it protects your bluffs some, since you’re more likely to double barrel in that fashion than in the delayed 2 barrel way.

Second, the hands you get 3 streets of value from are a bigger set than you think. TPTK is a pretty huge hand HU.

Third, giving free cards sucks.

Fourth, you get to decide the size of the bet. If you check behind turn with an array of hands, some of the time your opponent is going to bet in to you on the river. Now that’s great in those instances where you were inducing because you think your opponent is weak but will bluff when checked back to, but a lot of the time you wind up being put in a spot where the river bet is bigger than the bet you would have put in on the turn, uncomfortably.

Fifth, which goes with the first point, bet check bet looks more like a value line to many opponents, so you’re going to let a lot of people get away that would have paid your bet off on the turn.

Eh, I could probably do more, but I think that’s a reasonable thought process. I just know that for me, I got a lot better (I think?) when I started being much more aggressive on the turn, and threw my notions of pot control with hands like TP out the window a bit. (Maybe I’m sort of holding them out the window thinking about dropping them?) Sometimes you wind up getting checkraised on the turn, but that’s something you’ve got to deal with when it happens, and re-adjust.

I talked about pot control with Ansky yesterday too.   He made a pretty striking example of just how aggressive high stakes games are.  For example, against many opponents, if he had AQ and the flop came KQ2, he wouldn’t hesitate to bet all 3 streets for value (assuming the baord doesn’t get too dangerous).  Most villains will call all the way down with a weaker queen.

Do you take pot control too far?  How often do you bet 2nd pair for value on all 3 streets?

/2009/02/why-you-should-throw-pot-control-out-the-window/feed/ 1
Introducing PokerSage: A Free Tool for Short-Stacked HU Play/2009/02/introducing-pokersage-a-free-tool-for-short-stacked-hu-play/ /2009/02/introducing-pokersage-a-free-tool-for-short-stacked-hu-play/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2009 00:35:47 +0000 Gugel /?p=135 I wasn’t sure if I wanted to release this tool.  The whole point of this blog is to make you a better heads up player.  Thinking deeply about hands and your opponents is what makes you good and PokerSage takes thinking out of the equation.

With PokerSage, all you have to do is press a button when you (or your opponent) has 7 big blinds or less and it’ll automatically make a mathematically unexploitable decision.  It’s more commonly known as the SAGE system and it’s based on the John Nash’s Equalibrium Theory.

If you do decide to use PokerSage, at least think about why the SAGE system is unexploitable.  Poker is pattern masked in randomness.  Your job is to figure out the pattern.

Click here start using PokerSage.

/2009/02/introducing-pokersage-a-free-tool-for-short-stacked-hu-play/feed/ 1