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The Importance of Pre-Flop Raise

April 14, 2009

This post is to share my experience about the importance of pre-flop raises with all the fellow amateurs out there who have been portraying a tight table image playing just one 1 out of every 50 hands as well as those who always have their hands tied up after encountering consistent aggressive pre-flop raises. As important as it is, if you do it wrongly you can be in deep shit. I am not going to talk about the art of pre-flop raising as i am still trying to figure it out, but more of telling you the rationale behind it.

Have you ever been dealt an pocket Aces only to be beaten by a 38offsuit which hit a straight on a river with a lowly 3? This is known as a suck out or a bad beat which happens on a regular basis. Bad luck? Perhaps. Can this situation be avoided? To a certain extent, yes. How? Pre-flop Raises. Imagine you are the big blind on a 10/20 table dealt with 38 off suit, everyone folded to the small blind who makes a smooth call. Even if he does a minimum raise, seeing the flop will not be too expensive and thus giving you a mathematical chance of winning. However, if the SB puts in a 4xBB pre-flop raise, will you still call? what is the best possible hand that can be made from 38offsuit? 88 will almost certainly not be enough to be the top pair. Straight? Will you bet the on the board to give you 4 cards to complete your straight? Not probable. So the only viable option is to fold. Now that you have put yourself through the underdog’s shoe, i guess you will be able to appreciate pre-flop raises with a premium hand.

Besides trying to eliminate bad beats, the other reason i feel pre-flop raises is to get information out of everyone. Not everyone will risk their money on nonsense hands(even though some will), pre-flop raising helps you eliminate nonsense hands and thus you can assume that they are holding at least 1 premium card. Most of the time, it is not enough to know what hands you have, you have to know what hands your opponents have. If you are holding a KK and puts in a pre-flop raise of 4xBB which your opponent calls. Flop turns out A46rainbow and your opponent does a pot-level bet or raise. What will you do? Call or fold? I will fold as my KK has lost its value due to the Ace on board. Moreover, the opponent called my pre-flop raises means that he has a playable hands. Can it be a bluff? Well..maybe it is, but for someone to call a big raise, they may have pocket pairs and even Aces. Continue pushing and you will put your whole stack at risk by placing too much confident on your pocket Kings. However, if you fold to your opponent’s bluff, you will forego a small portion of your stack and can wait for a better chance again. In this case, pre-flop raising increase your knowledge of your opponents’ holdings, thus improving your decision-making.

Putting a pre-flop raise can put you in good position for a bluff, but this requires a little more skill. By raising pre-flop, you are announcing to your table that you are holding a premium hand. If a King hits the flop and you place another fairly big bet, your opponents will start thinking that you have hit a top King pair and possibly with a strong kicker. Even if you are holding a suited 23, they may not want to risk waiting for Aces. In this case, you will have made a winning hand out of just a lowly suited 23. Having said that, this requires knowledge of your opponents as well as your sitting position.

Undeniably, pre-flop raise has many advantages. However, these advantages will come to nothing without a little skill and position in play. You may play around with pre-flop raise to find the suitable level that will chase out nonsense hands after knowing the playing style of your opponents. I am sure after you get a hang of pre-flop raises, the table will be there for you to own.


I Feel For The Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth

April 13, 2009

If you read my post yesterday you’ll know I’m none too happy about getting beat by players who go all in with garbage hands — and end up beating my preflop favourites. I admit it’s my mistake going all-in with AK, but for a QQ to be beat by a Q-3, sometimes it just gets too much to bear. And when it happens over and over again, I start wondering if the scientists who swear poker is a game of skill, not luck, really know what they are talking about.

I’m talking bad beats. And anyone who has played more than a handful of poker has experienced the same thing. Just today, I saw my friend Mal’s KK go under to a 9-10 offsuit who caught a straight by the river. Then my JJ all-in gets called by a K-6 offsuit. I’m not pleased the bum caught a 6 on the flop, a K on the turn, and another 6 on the river to bust me with a fullhouse.

Yes, i’m peeved. And if even hitting the rail from a bad beat in FullTilt and PokerStars’ freeroll tournaments is giving me grieve enough to rant on this blog, I wonder how the professionals like Phil Hellmuth handles the bad beats with high stakes poker. Well, the short answer is: he doesn’t!

In this poker clip, “Poker Brat” Hellmuth explodes when his AK suited falls to a rubbish hand. And honestly, he’s not my hero — “Jesus” Chris Ferguson is, at the moment — but I certainly do feel his pain.

Hellmuth famously once said: “If no luck was involved in poker, I’d win every hand”. But luck does play a part, no matter how small, and by golly I’m going to have to dig real deep to find the strength to beat these fishes at the poker table.

Anna Kournikova Does Me In — Again!

April 12, 2009

You can read all the poker books and magazines in the world, and wonder why you’re not yet in the league of Phil Ivey, Chris Ferguson and Johnny Chan. I often wonder the same thing.

Tonight’s misery got me thinking: one good reason all the best reading material never makes me any better is because I never truly apply anything I learn!

Allow me to elaborate. I waited all night for a decent hand to play, when I finally look down to see an AK offsuit staring back at me in early position. I raise 4x the big blind, as is customary at this micro-stakes no limit table. A semi-loose player 2 seats down re-raises close to double my bet, and the BB re-raises to about half my stack. I know he is loose, and probably has an Ax suited or small-medium pocket pair, and smooth call, hoping 2-seats-down will fold. To my horror, the semi-loose player who first raised me now re-raises all-in. BB calls, and it’s up to me to decide. I hate that word, I swear!

By now I figured they both probably had pocket pairs and I was hopelessly behind. But I already had half my stack stuck in the pot and was determined to get something out of the first decent hand I was dealt all night. All-in, I shoved.

Bad mistake.

Semi-loose 2-seats down turns over pocket Kings, and the BB shows me pocket 8 pair. The flop was no help, and I was left with 3 outs to pair my Ace or head for an early night. And early night it was!

I was handily bundled out when the turn and river brought rubbish, and watched as the pocket cowboys took home a huge payload.

I know the theory well. An AK is a drawing hand and slight underdog (49%) to a lowly deuce (2-2) pair in an heads up situation. Against a KK, that narrows down to less than a 33% chance to win, even with AK suited. With such lousy odds, why do I keep calling all-in with AK? It’s the Anna Kournikova factor. Like its namesake, AK looks darn good but never wins! I know that, and yet I give myself a ton of excuses to just throw even more money down the drain. Excuses like: “But i’ve already invested so much into the pot!” and “How long will I have to wait before I get dealt cards as beautiful again?” And if you’re any bit like me, you throw out all you’ve learnt, and follow your “instinct”. You throw caution — and money — to the wind, even though you know you’re probably beat.

Well, I can’t blame luck for refusing to show me an Ace or two on the flop, I only have myself to blame!

Lessons for myself tonight:

1) Never allow my emotions to get the better of me! It’s better to fold preflop when I know I’m probably beat (eg. drawing), than to throw more money to chase a long shot. Half my stack left is better than no stack left at all.

2) Stop and take 5 slow, deep breaths and think again whether it makes sense in the situation to risk a whole stack of chips.

3) Stop, i repeat, STOP thinking a lowly AK is worth throwing in a fortune for! She’s only good to look at, not to hold!

Anna Kournikova

Update: I just got knocked out of the PokerStars weekly second round. I raised preflop with QQ, was re-raised by some loose cannon, and so I re-raised all-in to get rid of him and any lucky pot shots after the flop. He calls, with a Q-3 suited. I thought I had him beat, but the flop brings 2-7-5 rainbow, the turn lands a 6, and he hits jackpot on the river with a 4 for the straight. I am fully tilted. Can someone tell me please: what do we do with these maniacs who raise and call with rags and luck out all the time? It’s killing poker for me!