Are You a Fish?

I guess we all know that in poker a new or particularly poor player is, er, fondly known as a fish. You don’t want to be a fish – you want to spot the poker fish and fleece them of all their chips. But how do you know if YOU are the fish?

Well, there are a few signs to look out for. The first one being that if you can’t spot the fish at the tables, then YOU are the fish. So be careful.

How to spot the “fish”

A poker fish is often a calling station – a player who limps in to far too many hands with practically and two cards and then hopes to get lucky on the flop. If they don’t get lucky on the flop, they will generally fold to almost any bet.

poker fish

A poker fish loves to show his cards after winning a hand. After winning any hand. Take careful notice of the cards they show – it’s vital information which you can use against the fish.

A poker fish likes to use the chat facility to type rubbish like nice hand, well played or other general chatter. If they are typing, they can’t be concentrating too hard on playing poker.

A poker fish is often blinded by an ace if dealt one. They’ll think they just can’t lose if the have an ace in their hand. And even more so if another appears on the flop. Watch their ace-rag get eaten up by another players (hopefully yours) AQ.

If you are doing any of the above, then you are the fish my friend.

So, how do you beat a fish?

Don’t bluff them. A poker fish may just call your massive raise in the hope that they’ll make that miracle gutshot straight and then go and make it. Sometimes of course they will hit that miracle gutshot or backdoor flush draw. That’s just poker my friend. Nothing you can do about it. When this happens try to keep calm on not go in tilt. Continue reading “Are You a Fish?”

Tournament strategy

All poker players know, tournaments are where the money is at. Ring games are OK too, but you truly have to be an exceptional player to eek out some long term wins there. The luck-induced variance is just too much, and battling all those schooling rookies gets way too frustrating.

When I say the money is in the tournaments though, I don’t mean those freerolls that have thousands of players competing. Those are just not worth you while. The odds that you face are overwhelming and the eventual rewards are too minute. The time that it takes for you to complete such a tourney is way too long, and frankly, there are a variety of ways to invest that same amount of time much more lucratively.

What you’re after, are real money MTTs or STTs. The fact that you pay real money to buy in to one of these tourneys is usually enough of a deterrent to keep those who aren’t serious about playing, away from the tables.

ace and king of diamonds as a hold’em poker starting hand

At the beginning of the tournament, you should play very tight. In tournaments, a lot of value comes from simply surviving from one hand to another. You do not want to play the “all in” game many payers like so much, so early in the tourney. Many of these guys do not really have a clue what they’re doing, so they will certainly commit chip suicide, sooner rather than later. I advise you not to bother them. Let them go bout their business, and focus on extremely strong hands. Then you can help them leave, but do not try too hard.

Some of these early “all-in” guys do what they do as part of a strategy. I’m not sure at all how effective that really is, so I will certainly not recommend you do it, but this is what some of them do: they go all in a few times and get lucky. Obviously, when someone calls your all-in and you win, your stack grows like it’s on steroids. Pretty soon, they’ll have a large-enough stack in front of them. That is when the second part of their “strategy” kicks in. They sit back and sit out the rest of the tournament. Obviously, these people have noticed that because of the variance specific for Texas Holdem, and because of the fact that so many lousy calls are made in every tournament, some players do worse then those who don’t even play at all. I have indeed seen players who sat out and made it to the top 3 of a STT. Whatever it is they’re after, one thing is sure about these wise-guys: they cannot play poker. The all-in part that they perform in the beginning is a bingo-like coin-flip game. That certainly says nothing abut their abilities as players. The second part doesn’t even say that much. It is obvious that they go through a lot of trouble to avoid having to play, so actual play must not be one of their strong points for sure. Continue reading “Tournament strategy”

Late Position (LP for short)

Being in late position is a big advantage in poker and especially Texas Hold’em.

When in late position you are in a great position to get a good read on the tables play and make good decisions based on the strength of your hand or the strength of play being displayed before you. You can also relax your starting hand selection in late position and you can also begin playing pocket pairs a bit more liberally in late position.

This is also a great time to steal the buttons and make bluffs.

The blind steal is very difficult move for anyone in early or mid position. When you are in LP and everyone checks to you, this does give a good indication that your opponents are likely holding nothing of value and makes the bluff a much safer play.

The semi-bluff is raising a player who bet in early or mid position.

Late Position

The semi bluff works in two different ways:

By raising, you are putting pressure on your opponent to possibly make them fold, especially if they only had a marginal hand to begin with.

By raising you can make your opponent slow his own action down by you showing strength and possibly making him check to you on the turn if he calls your raise from the flop.

If your opponent does check to you on the turn, then you have the option to try another semi–bluff or simply check as well and gain a free card on the river.

Making you opponent back up his decisions is a good way to play poker but this attitude must only be employed when you have a good read on the table. Never let players at your table smell weakness, as a good player will take you to pieces, and this is done through the size of your bets and your timing. Continue reading “Late Position (LP for short)”

4 basic poker concepts that need to be mastered


  • A good poker player will know their odds of making certain hands. This player will know that he will hit a set when holding pocket pairs about 1 in 8.5 times, and he will know that he will complete his flopped flush draw by the river 1 in every 3 times.
  • A good poker player will always be aware of his outs and is constantly working out what he needs to make his hand. Outs are the number of cards left in the deck that will improve your hand. You can times the outs by 2 and this will give you a rough estimate of your chance of hitting on the next card.
  • A good poker player will figure out his pot odds. Taking your remaining outs and calculating it into a meaningful process i.e.: I have a 36% chance of making my flush.
  • Understanding these concepts only takes the most basic of mathematic skills and it will improve your game considerably, so it is worth taking the time to learn the concepts.

poker concepts


  • A good poker player is always looking to be better than the next poker player and expects to win on a regular basis. A good poker player does not play poker to try and get lucky hands; he only hopes that other poker players do not get lucky.
  • A good poker player knows when to fold a hand and when to continue playing. He can adjust his game to the style of the game and is fully aware of when he is on tilt and when a game is just too good to leave.
  • A good disciplined poker player will makes mistakes, but he will learn from these mistakes. He will not scream and cry and blame the other players, he will simply learn from the situation and move on.

Continue reading “4 basic poker concepts that need to be mastered”

7 card stud? What’s that all about? Learn about it here…

7 Card Stud is a version of Stud poker that was for a long time a favorite amongst American and European poker players – up till Texas hold em’ gained fame and developed quite a following.

The 7 Card Stud however is still played by many poker fanatics across the globe and is available at most casinos and you might find yourself enjoying this variant of poker that allows you more cards to play around with to create your best poker hand.

Here’s an idea of how the 7 Card Stud poker game is played:

  • All players are required to place an initial bet into the pot
  • Players are then dealt two cards face-down and one card face-up each. This is followed by the first round of betting, called the Bring In. This is initiated by the player with the lowest face-up card at the table
  • Players are dealt with one card face-up or Fourth Street. This is followed by the second round of betting and this is initiated by the player with the highest hand showing
  • Players are then dealt with another card face-up or Fifth Street. This is followed by the third round of betting
  • Players are then dealt with one more card face-up or Sixth Street and this is followed by the fourth round of betting
  • The final card is dealt to players face down or the River indicating the last round of betting
  • Now players are to use 5 of their 7 cards to make their best poker hand, this is called the Showdown

With your odds of making a great hand raised, the 7 Card Stud is a pretty exciting alternative to the regular Texas Hold Em’.

Playing Omaha Hi Lo

Omaha Hi-Lo is sometimes referred to as Omaha Eight or Better. The game works in the same way as standard Omaha but there are two pots, physically there is only one pot, but there are two ways to win the money. Half of the pot is awarded for the best poker hand (remember to use two from your hand!) The second half of the pot (the “lo” part) is won by using 2 cards from your hand and 3 from the board with no cards higher than an 8.

When playing the “lo” part of the hand straights and flushes don’t count. So the best “lo” hand is A 2 3 4 5 – also known as “the wheel”, the second best “lo” hand is A 2 3 4 6. Playing Omaha Eight or Better does require some extra concentration compared to Hold’em especially if you are new to the game.

When you play Omaha Hi Lo you are not aiming to win the low pot or the high pot, but both together. Winning the hi and lo pot together is known as “scooping the pot”. A lot of players only aim for the hi part of the pot or the lo part of the pot, this is known as “quartering”. Quartering is the best way to lose your bankroll playing Omaha Hi Lo as you will be chasing small fractions of only half the pot.

Aces count as high or low when playing Omaha Hi Lo. When playing Omaha Hi Lo it is very important to understand the specific rules of “hi-lo”. For example, if you look at the two hands below:

Hand 1 : A 2 3 4 7
Hand 2 : A 3 4 5 6

At first glance it looks like Hand 1 (A 2 3 4 7) should win, but it’s not the 2 that is important, it’s the highest low card. It is the 7 v 6 that is important in this example.

The Basics of Poker (Texas Hold’em)

Usually played with up to ten players and a dealer, in informal games or homegames, dealing will pass from player to player.

Players each receive two down (hole) cards (known only to them) that form the basis for their hands. These cards can be used in combination with any of the five subsequently exposed community cards (used by all players) to form a five-card poker hand that determines the winner.


With the exception of No Limit Hold’em, the game rules, rather than the individual, determine the size of bets and raises. In the first two rounds of play all bets and raises are equal to the minimum bet and during the last two rounds bets and raises are limited to the maximum bet, typically double the minimum. For example: a $2-4 table, $3-6 table, $100-200 table, etc. denotes the minimum and maximum bets and raises allowed in the particular game. Betting is also limited to no more than three raises per round.

Texas Hold'em

Order of Play

  • The first player to the dealer’s left puts in the small blind while the next player to his/her left puts in the big blind, generally the big blind is double the small blind. Blinds move clockwise around the table with each ensuing game, ensuring there is always some money in the pot, this helps to create action..
  • After players have received their initial two cards the round of betting begins, clockwise from the player whose forced bet was the big blind. Players may then decide what they want to do with their hole cards. They can fold (give up), call (match the big blind), or raise , depending on the strength of their two cards.
  • After this round of betting is completed the dealer burns the top card from the remainder of the deck and deals three cards face up on the table. This is known as the flop. These are community cards used by all players. A second round of betting then begins starting to the left of the dealer button.
  • When the second round is completed the dealer again burns the top card and deals a fourth community card face up known as 4th Street or the turn. Remaining players check, fold or raise with bets and raises limited to the maximum for the table unless it is a no limit game.
  • The final round of betting begins when the last card, 5th Street or the river, is dealt face up. The winner of the game is the player with the highest five-card hand constructed with any (or none) of his two hole cards in combination with any of the five community cards. If the five community cards are the best hand he would elect to “play the board,” usually resulting in a split pot.

Poker Hands from High to Low:

  • Royal Flush – straight flush ace high
  • Straight Flush – five consecutive cards of the same suit
  • Four of a Kind
  • Full House – three of a kind plus a pair
  • Flush – five cards of the same suit
  • Straight – five consecutive cards
  • Three of a Kind also known as a set
  • Two Pair
  • Pair
  • High Card

(Aces are played high or low.)

Poker Commitment

If you want to be a winning poker player you must know how other players think. Players (especially weak and inexperienced ones) often commit themselves to pots, even though they shouldn’t. There are three types of poker commitment:

  • Commitment to history.
  • Commitment to certain hands.
  • Commitment to milestones.

Commitment to History
The players you face at the lower levels are all pretty much the same. Sometimes you can even tell which poker books they have studied. Perhaps a player has read Doyle Brunson’s “Super System” and based his game on this classic. Players of this kind shouldn’t be given any credit pre-flop or on the flop. On the flop we’ll go head to head with bottom two pair against A-J-T on the board. This will be the correct play over 90 % of the time. Other players have read other books and what you need to do is identify which player has read what, and adjust your game to this.

Commitment to Certain Hands
Some hands are harder to let go than others, with AA as the classic example. When you discover a player who is unable to fold a big hand you should try to take maximum advantage of this. Wait for them to hit something and then break it, be that two pair against an over pair, or a flush against a straight, etc. This type of player generally overplays their hands and thus present maximum implied odds. Consequently, you should play many long shot draws when you’re up against a player like this.

Commitment to Milestones
This type of commitment has less to do with money and poker than it does with aesthetics. It comes in many different forms. These are some common examples:

  • Tightening up the game when being just above round numbers (200, 250, 400, 1000…), and loosening up when being within one or two plays of reaching a round number.
  • Not drawing or calling questionable bets for an amount that would bring their stack below average in a tournament or below the initial buy-in in a cash game.

Who Are You Playing Poker With?

Think for a second about your online presence. Do you play online poker under your own name or a wacky internet pseudonym like WinzALot or Aces99?

The strangely named players at your favorite poker table could be the same poker professionals who wear the World Series of Poker* bracelets and take the huge pots on television. How would you know?

And wouldn’t you love to beat them at their own game using the power of odds? MagicHoldem can give you that power.

MagicHoldem is an online poker odds calculator tool that fits neatly around your poker table and displays real-time odds and statistics while you play. The complex mathematical formula instantly reads room parameters and gives you useful information about your chances of winning and the likelihood a card you need will appear on the flop, the turn, and the river.

Knowing the odds can make you a stronger player. Professional poker players spend years practicing and playing until they can gauge the odds in their heads. You don’t need to waste time and energy when MagicHoldem can give you the same information instantly and accurately. You’ll avoid simple mistakes and be able to bet with confidence, driving weaker players out of the hand and stealing more pots more often.

You can download a free MagicHoldem one hundred hand trial. Use your free trial to play in your favorite poker rooms — you never know who else might be at the table with you.

You could be playing alongside someone who is wearing a World Series of Poker* bracelet and not even know it.

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2007 World Series of Poker* champion Jerry Yang plays at FullTiltPoker alongside these big name players. You can use MagicHoldem to help you steal pots from the pros! Imagine telling your friends that you played against poker stars like Phil Gordon or Chris Ferguson… and won.

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Advertising A Bluff

Poker is an extremely psychological game. At the table, you’re constantly watching your opponents, hoping to pick up signs that give away their hands. You’re observing patterns, trying to piece together bits of incomplete information that will help you determine your next move. The player to your right talks a lot when he’s in a hand. Is he bluffing when he does this, or is he sitting on the nuts? Perhaps he talks all the time just to try and confuse you. The player to your left just lost a huge pot to a bad beat and has opened the very next hand with a big raise. Is he on tilt, or did he wake up to a premium hand?

A game relying so heavily on the psyche demands constant awareness from its players, as missing the tiniest bit of information can make or break you on any given hand. Phil Hellmuth Jr., one of the games most notorious and most successful players, has been known to have said “I look into people’s souls!” While this comment is a popular punch line amongst poker circles, it does have some truth to it. To win at live poker, you have to develop a strong ability to read your opponents and get inside their heads. When you have a good hand, you need to somehow convince your opponent that you’re holding something he can beat; if he knows you’re sitting on a monster, he’ll simply throw his cards away and you won’t win anything.

poker bluff

So how do we get our opponents to doubt their reads and misuse the information they pick up? One tool you can use is advertising. The term simply means turning your cards face-up on the table after you successfully carry out a bluff. Many poker books advise against ever showing your cards at the table, mainly because you are giving your opponents information that they would not otherwise have access to. Generally speaking, this is good advice; the less information you afford your opponents, the better. However, there are certain situations that merit showing your cards and advertising is one of them. Continue reading “Advertising A Bluff”