Poker Ad Factory

Friday, August 2, 2013

State of Online Poker in US 2 Years After Black Friday

A vibrant community of online poker players in the US thrived around online poker rooms such as Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Many of them had made playing poker their occupation as they could win incredibly large pots from the comforts of home. But the events of April 15, 2011 changed online poker in the US forever and hence was termed as Black Friday.
Black Friday was a terrible blow and the US online poker community is yet to recover. The withdrawal of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars from the US market deprived many professional players of their means of livelihood. Besides, many players still haven’t got back their money, which was seized by the feds when they cracked down on major online poker rooms on Black Friday.    

US Online Poker Legality

The legality of US online poker, from the federal point of view, is a grey area. At the state level, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada have regulated online poker and a few other US states are considering the same. Online poker experts welcome state-wise legalization, but they also warn that it could lead to a fragmented industry, which is why federal legalization is essential. Black Friday has considerably increased the pressure for federal online poker legalization. As Poker Players’ Alliance (PPA) Director John Pappas puts it, “the poker community has been taking back what was snatched away” from it on April 15, 2011.
Presently, it is widely held that US online poker is illegal. A few experts say that online poker can be considered legal since the Department of Justice (DoJ) stated in December 2011 that the Wire Act does not apply to online poker, but this argument has not yet passed legal tests.

US Online Poker Sites

After Black Friday, some US players registered at smaller offshore online poker rooms such as Carbon Poker and Lock Poker, but most of them were just too scared to play online poker anymore. The only licensed US online poker site is Ultimate Poker in Nevada, but Nevada gambling regulations prevent it from accepting non-Nevada players.
Black Friday led to the withdrawal of Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, Players Only, and Sportsbook.com from the US market. Carbon Poker, Lock Poker, BetOnline, Bovada, and others continued to accept US players, but many of these sites, especially those on the Revolution Network, have disappointed players with their inability to process US payments quickly.

Impact on Players

Black Friday affected US poker players the most. Poker pro Tony Dunst ruefully stated that Black Friday “ruined the game” in the US. Most recreational players just lost interest in the game, owing to which poker tournaments had to reduce their entry fees.
Some professional poker players decided to migrate to poker friendly countries such as Mexico and Canada. A new service called Poker Refugees appeared on the scene to help US poker pros migrate to Malta, Costa Rica, and other countries. Some players tried playing live poker in the casinos of Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and California; and others began looking for nine-to-five jobs.
The state of US online poker after Black Friday is bleak, but the US online poker community continues to hope that poker will be legalized at the federal level. Speaking at an interview with The Verge, Pappas gave three reasons why US online poker has to be legalized. First, US residents are already playing poker; second, online poker can generate huge revenue; and third, people have the right to play a game they love on their own computers, in the comforts of their own homes.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Poker Forums - Separating the Best From the Rest

Poker forums are where poker community comes to learn, socialize and gossip. If online poker rooms are the heart of the community, then forums are its mouth.

I recently went shopping for a poker or gambling forum. Spending quite a bit of time looking at different forums, taking their pulse and examining closely business model for those that have one. I wanted to share some observations. So far I have not acquired any forums or even came close. By the way, if you happen to own an established poker forum which you have no time to run anymore, then do contact me. These are just my own observations about different forums and what makes each one special.

Why interest in forums at all? Kind of unsexy topic, is it not? - Do not underestimate forums. Although very basic, forums are a fundamental fabric of Internet. Forums, together with groups,  were the very first ways how most people experienced the transforming power of Internet.

Top 3 forums


Twoplustwo (2+2)


Twoplustwo is the mother of all poker forums. The oldest and by far the largest forum. So it is only appropriate to start  forums review with 2+2. This forum used to be an important center of learning poker strategy back in the early days of poker boom. I am not a regular at that forum and only watched it for a few years now. It is clear that most of the original poker pros left the forum or are no longer active. While it is still possible to ask a poker strategy question and get an answer, the amount of noise increased dramatically over the years. God forbid you make even a smallest posting etiquette mistake, you may receive more flaming than you ever thought was possible. I remember seeing a thread that had literally hundreds of flame comments on some poor fella who stated something stupid. I wanted to post a link but I failed finding that thread. Unfortunately part of the forum’s core community, people making hundreds of posts a year each, has developed into a poker sub-culture. That group has its own flavor of humor and snide toward outsiders.

This forums’ age and its enormous size make an imprint on the experience. If I had to describe twoplustwo in a phrase, it would be “crusty and disjoint”. A five page long list of sub-forums is bewildering. Some are active, others are a ghost town. There is no consistency in how different sub-forums are moderated. Certain moderators are excessively strict, others are missing-in-action. Couple all that with barely working search and the fact that content gets archived, which breaks all permanent links. And you have got a jungle, a poker jungle.

It is apparent that twoplustwo was meant to be run as a business. Yet that too seems to be almost lost in a a shuffle of time (pun intended). For example they keep running house ads promoting their Marketplace. But there is no way to list stuff on that marketplace. Business queries go unanswered, leaving impression that the site is still run by a bunch of now aging enthusiasts.

PocketFives (P5)


Also an old, large poker forum that survived the Test of Time better than its larger competitor. While it has a full range of forum sections, this forum is clearly geared toward online poker player community. Mostly active regulars, grinders and tournament players. A unique P5 feature is their proprietary ranking system for online players. I cannot comment on the ranking system itself, since I have no idea how it is constructed.

Overall this forum could be pretty useful provided you fit the target audience that P5 caters to. Not being an online regular, I visit this forum only occasionally. As far as moderators go, P5 has pretty strict moderators if not the strictest.

Among all poker forums reviewed  P5 visual layout stands out . You may say that any forum (when stripped to bare bones) is just a list of messages. Well, that is true, yet  those with the best access to information get advantage. Page layout, navigation, search ease are all supremely important. P5 layout is clean, not crowded (frequent sin on other forums) and visually pleasant.

CardsChat (CC)


Another American poker forum. Though this one bills itself as a worldwide poker community. The forum has a pretty good level of activity but without its own sub-culture. And that is a good thing as one needs just plain English skills to communicate with fellow poker enthusiasts. Moderators appear to be somewhat friendlier than on P5 and 2+2.

This site, more than others, seems to rely on affiliate business with online poker rooms. Consequently, they peddle online rooms harder than others. CC has its own Freeroll poker tournaments and even its own poker league. I never played those. If someone can share their first hand experience, please share in the comment section below.

Other Notable Forums


All Vegas Poker (AVP)


This poker forum is the easiest to write about because it defines itself clearly. Billed as best resource for recreational gamblers headed to Las Vegas. Perhaps it is its clear focus that brings forth purpose and a loyal community follows. AVP cleverly harnessed crowdsourcing to compile a great set of up-to-date reviews about everything poker going on in Vegas. Poker rooms, hotels, current poker tournaments, promotions, lounges, you name it. The community provides the reviews as well as keeps itself honest to prevent blatant venue promotion. While this forum has all the “mandatory” poker strategy sections to compete with other poker forums, it is obvious that people come to AVP to plan their trip to Vegas as well as share their trip experiences afterward. A unique value of the forum is in it having become a source of current information on hotels and other mainstream activities but delivered through a poker player or gambler eyes. Things like which hotel has the best deep stack poker tournaments or where to stay to get the best comps if you are an avid poker player are covered pretty well. Advanced topics like how to keep one's spouse occupied (and happy) while playing poker are also discussed. Considering size of Vegas’ gambling landscape the coverage is pretty impressive.

Moderators are pretty friendly and the tone of discussion is mostly friendly and polite. The site has recently refreshed its visual theme by toning down the predominance of red and purple. The content seems to have been revamped too. Giving more focus to ease of access to information. For example each venue such as hotel got its own page as a hub for all information about this particular venue including live reviews of course.

Regional Poker Forums

 

While there is no question that poker is one of few truly authentic American games, poker has enjoyed a steady increase in popularity abroad. The popularity is mostly fueled by online poker enabling people all over the world to experience poker without leaving their home. Beyond pure entertainment, a few who has taken the trouble to learn poker strategy and secure a bankroll make some income. Here are a several countries with vibrant poker communities as demonstrated by their poker forums.

Canada

 

pokerforum.ca is a poker forum with a Canadian perspective. Well no surprise there, given the fact how close Canada is to US. This forum is perhaps an order of magnitude smaller that other forums I mentioned above. Besides the standard poker strategy sections, pokerforum.ca covers Canadian poker tournament schedule as well as serves as center for setting up local or home poker games.

As an aside comment I must mention that Canadian poker players have been emerging strongly into the limelight since 2012. This is probably due to US struggling under its online poker prohibition while Canadian players continue to freely hone their skills online.

Brazil and Russia

 

Both countries have an active poker community which is almost 100% online poker.  Recently some of the successful online players having made a transition to live poker played in casino (outside of their home country) or live tournaments. I provide a list of links at the end of this section. Overall I was impressed with how well poker is represented in both countries’ Internet. Each has multiple commercial websites dedicated exclusively to poker. In most cases, the sites are fully fledged poker portals rather than traditional poker forums. Brazil poker sites make heavy emphasis on timely poker news coverage. Russian poker sites, on the other hand,  go well beyond just translating and presenting local commentary to world’s poker events. The best of them have built a roster of poker pros maintaining their blogs as a vehicle for interacting with the community. They also generate content by translating the best of Western writing about poker. Anything between fiction, memoirs or just excerpts from articles. Staking, fantasy poker teams and other social angles of poker are all present on Russian poker sites.

It is difficult to estimate how big those communities are absent some hard numbers. Some of those sites have impressive Alexa rankings implying that Russian and Brazilian forums may be as large as many American poker forums are.  However, I hesitate trusting Alexa given how flawed Alexa’s methodology is and how open it is to manipulation.

Brazilian Poker Forums

In no particular order:

Russian Poker Forums


Friday, February 15, 2013

How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold'em (Book Review)

book Cover: How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold'em
I recently finished reading How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold'em by Ed Miller. Some of you who read my other poker book reviews know that I pay attention to whether a particular book stands out in the sea of printed material that accompanied poker’s explosion in popularity over the last decade. Ed Miller did not disappoint. The author smartly carved out a single, though pretty advanced topic, which received relatively little in-depth coverage in most poker strategy books. Then covered that topic in detail, including examples and homework assignments after each chapter. Most of us poker players being slackers at heart - have got to hate homework. I appreciated the book’s singular focus  on reading hand ranges. The ideas are explained in plain  English resulting in greater clarity.

Audience

Hand Reading is not a poker beginner book by any stretch. This is an advanced poker concept requiring discipline and lots of practice to perfect. In fact the book makes this point beyond any doubt by stating that range assignment and tracking takes a lot of mental work. However, multiple level thinking  and thinking in terms of hand ranges are really at the core of what separates professional poker players from amateurs. As such the reward for mastering hand reading is a substantial increase in your win rate.
 

The Grade

This is a good, well-written poker book which is well worth your time. It is a practical book which touches on theory only as much as necessary to explain concepts. Moreover the book has a section specifically for the purpose of quick refresh after the initial read. Author also introduced some computer software tools to assist in doing some of the tedious poker analysis work. I loved those practical gems, which together make any book so much more useful for a reader. The only points I take from a perfect score are for the price.

The book is priced at ~$50. I happen to be very suspicious of any poker book priced above value range of $15-20. That because premium priced range is where one finds scammy books which promise to “reveal ultimate secrets to unlock unlimited earnings potential in blank”. Here substitute word poker for blank. One the other hand, given that target audience is rather limited, pricing it at a premium might have been the only way to make the whole enterprise economically feasible. But I am unconvinced.

 

High Points

Again I must commend the author on smartly choosing the topic of his book. A method of Hand reading in poker based on assigning hand ranges and tracking them as hand progresses is covered thoroughly, clearly and in good detail. At the same time the focus is kept on practical poker by copious examples throughout the text. Starting with simple cases, then analysing more difficult cases where opponents could be bluffing. The material in the book is logically organized and easy to follow.

As a starting point for hand ranges the author introduces a simple classification for player types you meet at the table. The categories like nit, fish and regular seemed to be geared more toward live poker. That makes sense given that E. Miller is a live poker professional.

I liked simple, down to earth message - Hand reading is a lot of work. Yet it is worth the effort. The author chose not to sugarcoat the fact that accurate, real-time hand reading is quite challenging. Mentally taxing, in fact.

There are several useful features of this book which will make consuming the text easier for readers. First, paragraphs summarizing some concept or fact are highlighted in a tip box of sorts, making it easier to skim through. Second, the tail of the book contains quick concepts. That is not unlike earlier books Ed Miller wrote with David Sklanky. For example Small Stakes Hold’em. These quick concepts are very useful in itself but specifically shine when one returns for a quick refresh. Third, all examples are illustrated with four color deck. Though I always thought of four color deck as a gimmick, it worked surprisingly well here. I refer specially to an electronic copy. Finally, I did not have to double check myself whether certain card is a spade or club.

 

Needs Improvement

Besides book’s price I mentioned earlier I did not find any issues. The one  below is truly a possible improvement rather than being a flaw:

Each chapter in the book ends with a bunch of exercises for the reader. The exercises are designed to help absorb the material by going through the process of narrowing opponent’s hand range. Somewhere toward the end of the book we get introduced to a commercial software tool, Flopzilla, which automates some of the work in exploring hand ranges. I thought that it would be more useful to refer to a website which guides readers through doing book’s homework exercises. Perhaps drawing on results from Flopzilla.


Bottom Line

In conclusion, buy How To Read Hands At No-Limit Hold'em if you are playing poker on a regular basis. You are moving up in stakes and have plenty of time to study the material in the book. Systematically applying what the book teaches can help you find profitable bluffing, bluff catching and calling opportunities. Importantly, those bluffs would be based on a method rather than blind aggression.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: Inside Underground Poker

Inside Underground Poker
I recently watched a video named Inside Underground Poker. Here is a youtube link. It is a documentary about people who run illegal, “high-stakes” poker games in New York City. This video left me with a few questions. So, in this post, I am going to pose my questions. I want to know if I am just out of line, maybe I missed the point of that video. Or perhaps you would agree that the point eludes us. Warning: contains some spoilers.

The video is presented as “tell all” life of high-stakes poker players. Members of this exclusive club go by nicknames like “Banker”, “Breeze” and the like. Then they show people playing $5-$10 No Limit Holdem. There are scenes of players loudly lamenting loss of couple of grands. First off in the movie Rounders main character (played by Matt Damon) sits down to play with 15 grands. Also note, that movie was shot in 1998 when dollar was worth much more than it is today. I mention Rounders because it is what this documentary is clearly inspired by. We will return to that movie later. That high-stakes thing puzzled me. Can  $5-$10 be considered a high-stakes game? If every casino in US routinely offers these very same or higher stakes. Actually, even many home games are not too far behind. In Northern California, where I live, home games among working adults often run at between $1-$2 and $2-$5 stakes. Home poker among students  usually runs at lower stakes for obvious reasons. I thought that high-stakes is what one cannot find in a casino. A related question is - should any unemployed person playing poker be considered a poker professional?
 

Security

Mike, the owner of this makeshift poker club, is obsessed with security. They change locations all around  greater New York. We see shots of dark, shady, rundown places in Brooklyn and the like strongly evoking some of Rounders photography.  At some point high-rollers in the documentary complain to Mike that his new place just smells bad.

Don’t get me wrong, security is a legitimate concern. There is no question that men behave irrationally around money. Especially if you add alcohol and women into the mix. The silliness of it all came into focus once I remembered that the whole brouhaha is happening  2.5 hour drive away from Atlantic City! Town where these high-rollers could find bigger stakes, safer games and clean places that don’t stink. Hell, they can even catch a train back home for $39 in case poker luck was not on their side.
 
Just Another Home Game

The documentary is filled with tension of doing something illegal. At some point narrator asks Mike if he is afraid to go to jail. For the record, Mike is not afraid. Take that, NYPD! However why all the precautions and strong aura of illegal? Mike’s poker club does not even have a business model. There is no rake, cover charge or other formal means to charge players. We are told that players tip the owner if they liked particular night. I am not a legal expert. Though it sounds exactly like any other home poker game, which is to the best of my knowledge is still legit.
 
Drama

Then there is drama. Director’s high point of this documentary comes when they show one player who is deeply indebted to Mike, the owner. Mike continues to fund that player (“front” him in the poker parlance) but insists on him going into other “home” games to lure in new clients. I was perking up in my chair hoping to see some tough collection tactics, something akin to great scenes from Rounders. But everything is amicable and the player is content with being a prop player or rather Mike’s shill. I guess that is because he is a proposition player. Nothing wrong with prop players, every casino employs them. But if so, where is the drama?

Overall, I was left hanging with all my questions. Is this documentary just much ado about nothing? Like so much of reality TV, which floods our screens daily. Why does director seem working so hard to make us believe this is something other than a homely poker game? Why do grown-ups with decent access to legitimate gambling facilities continue to entertain what I can only call Rounders reality?  I am a huge fan of movie Rounders myself. I admit some scenes in the movie are just intoxicating but still, why? Finally, reality is supposed to trump fiction any time. Why is Inside Underground Poker appears as caricature of movie Rounders?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

5 Tips for Self Marketing for Poker Sponsorship

Guest post by Stevie Clapton

Most that take their Poker playing very seriously one day aspire to be offered a sponsorship. Players that receive sponsorships are actually paid to play poker, and are not required to rely upon their earnings in order to continue playing at a high level. Unfortunately, what most do not realize is that good play alone will not get you a sponsorship. You have to effectively market yourself to the sponsors and prove to them that an investment in you will provide them enough visibility to give them a positive return. No sponsor is going to continue to sponsor a player when it is not profitable for them or their business. This is usually why you see the "personalities" within the poker scene receiving the most lucrative sponsorships. They may not always be the "best" players in the world, but they draw viewers to the sport, which is in the favor of those that hold events, and therefore in the favor of the company that is providing the sponsorship. They will certainly forego the better player for a player that will give them a better return on their investment.

Increase Your Skill


Having a personality might help, but there is nothing better for your chances at receiving a sponsorship than just being downright good at the game. Make sure that you are constantly studying, and playing the game enough in your spare time to where playing well just becomes second nature. You know what you need to do with each and every hand. Try to keep a daily practice schedule to the best of your ability.

Participate In the Community


Participate in the community wherever you can. Go to events. Go to conventions. Try to play in private games with other experienced or semiprofessional players. Take part in all of the major forums and discussion boards about the game. Do anything and everything that you possibly can to get your name out there, and recognized by as many people within the industry as you possibly can.

Join Tournaments with Visibility


Is there an upcoming tournament that is going to be receiving coverage from a number of prominent media sources? These provide you with a perfect opportunity to begin making a name for yourself and marketing yourself for the purpose of securing a sponsorship. Get some wins under your belt. Get your name mentioned in a few newspapers, magazines, and websites. Look at it as building a career portfolio, and it is the only thing that most companies are going to have to judge you on.

Meet Those in Positions to Make It Happen


Did you hear about a new company that is looking to sponsor a player at around your skill level? Is there someone in the industry who might be able to connect you to potential sponsorship opportunities? Remember, no one is going to give you a sponsorship just because they like you, but it certainly does help to know people in positions that can help you to achieve sponsorship. Sometimes, the companies know nothing more than that poker provides them an opportunity to profit, and choose their sponsorships with a consultant in the industry.

Become an Expert


Do you feel like you know everything there is to know about poker? Using your knowledge of the game to promote yourself as a player can be an excellent way to attract attention to your career. Start a website and offer hints or industry incite. Publish a free downloadable eBook, that details the basics of becoming a
solid poker player. Write guest blogs for prominent poker blogs, and link to your own profiles or website as a way to build a following. Receiving a sponsorship can be difficult. It requires a personality that draws viewers, results that keep your relevant, and a marketing plan to get your noticed. But with a little due diligence, you can quickly become recognized as a top up and coming poker player, worthy of his first sponsorship.

Author Bio: Stevie Clapton is a part of BingoSites.com who provide poker articles and reviews.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Are the Odds

Photo by Richard Paterson
I have made extensive use of poker stats and odds in my post Unconventional Moves In Poker. Few people were interested to know where I get the numbers I used in that post. ln general, there are three ways to obtain poker stats and probabilities. What follows is super short review of each. Possible sources are:
  1. Online odds calculators
  2. From a published source (books or tables)
  3. Doing the math yourself

Online Odds Calculators

Easy to start with. That is once you find a good one. Poker Odds calculators proliferate on the Internet, so, these days, pretty much every site has one.  Odds calculators use partial simulations and excel in answering questions like if hand A is pitted against hand B what are the odds of A winning assuming both hands are allin and play to the river.

Once you moved beyond those simple questions, Calculator’s UI and capabilities vary a lot. Tinkering with screen settings can be confusing and/or frustrating. Expect to spend a few hours before you can fully tame such a Calculator.

Another issue is confidence in Calculator results. Since these calculators use partial simulations, the results are just good approximations of actual probabilities. Another issue is minor bugs in software. For example, let say you are trying to figure when holding 78 what is a chance of making a flush by the river. Typically, Calculators would produce an odds number which includes cases where board comes up ♣♣♣♣♣ (all clubs). Because that case is also “making” flush by the river. Those bugs are rarely a big issue in practice. Unless you want high confidence, like for publishing numbers somewhere.


Published Sources

Very easy to use and results are trustworthy. On the flip side, answers are limited to most common situations in Texas Holdem Poker. Such books might be of little help in analyzing poker situations that are off the beaten path.

Specifically, I use Texas Hold’em Poker Odds for Your Strategy by Catalin Barboianu.  This is not your run-of-the-mill
poker strategy book. I would not even call it a book about Texas Holdem poker in sense. Rather the author, a schooled mathematician, uses game of Holdem poker as setup producing a host of interesting probability problems. The book is hardly for reading as it is just filled with tables and formulas. But as  a reference on poker stats and probabilities  the book is nearly perfect. It is highly useful for a quick lookup of specific number or situation.  I also have confidence in numbers published  based on author’s credentials and generally because published material goes through more scrutiny.

DIY

Doing it yourself  is labor intensive and obviously is only for those so inclined. Though basic math itself is pretty simple, once you get the hang of it. This is somewhat akin to difference between ordering fish fillet in a restaurant vs going on a fishing trip, then grilling your fish over open fire under the stars. Which fish, do you think tastes better? It is the same with poker odds. Once you go through the exercise, you have made results your own. One positive side-effect of doing it the hard way is result memorization is almost automatic.

Have your favorite Odds Calculator? - tell me about it in the comment section below.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Unconventional Moves In Poker

Think Outside the box by ArtJonak
Every poker player loves getting suited connectors and for good reasons. They make strong hands like straights and flushes. Most of all, they are fun to play for its draws. A standard way of playing suited connectors is to call, trying to see a cheap flop, then go from there depending how well your cards connected with the board. On the other side, any good poker coach will caution you that against a raise preflop suited connectors are not playable. Most of the better poker books contain the same advice - avoid playing suited connectors in early position or against raisers. This has become an ingrained wisdom, which all but the loosest players follow without giving it a second thought. Of course loose, super-aggressive players will play and raise connectors from any position. Not for any specific reason, it is just any cards with some promise are an excuse to see a flop. This article shows that in very specific situation calling a re-raise with suited connectors is mathematically correct poker move. Moreover, in tournaments, it is a necessary move.

Calling A Re-Raise with Suited Connectors

That is right - we need to see a re-raise. Just a raise in front is not enough. First, let me describe all the preconditions for this move. As a side note, you cannot overdo this play because this exact situation does not occur very often.
  1. You are on the button or one off the button with a medium to low suited connections. No exceptions - you need position.
  2. There is a raise from early position followed by a re-raise. You have at least two opponents. This is important because the goal is not just to win a pot. It is to triple up your stack.
  3. You are relatively deep-stacked and can call for less than 15% of your stack.

For you to triple up, your opponents have to really like their hands and be willing to go all in with them. That is the reason why I like to see a re-raise before action is on me. That tells me we are going to play a big pot. The call from the original raiser is expected because with my call his pot odds will be pretty good.

Provided we got a desired situation, first we consider probability of making a hand on the flop. Not just any made hand, but a strong hand like two pair or better. So we continue in the hand as a big favorite to win. It is worth mentioning for PLO fans out there, these odds apply only to No Limit Holdem. Here is what exact probabilities are:

  • Flopping  two pair  - 4.55%
  • Flopping 3 of a kind while holding unpaired cards - 1.44%
  • Flopping a straight (assumed your connectors can form 4 straights) - 1.3%
  • Flopping a flush - 0.8%
  • Full house and higher “miracle” combinations together ~ 0.1%

All together we will have a strong made hand only 8.2% of time. These are odds of 11 to 1 against. You can see now why suited connectors are called a speculative hand. Yet it is a good deal! Because we are playing with two or more other players, our upside is at least 2X of our stack. For example, say you called for 10% of your stack. If you do not hit any of the hands above, you can fold without losing any more chips. In doing so you are giving yourself odds of 19:1, but your winning chances are much better. They are 11:1 as shown above, making this a correct play.


Rationale

Just because a certain play is profitable in terms of odds does not mean you have to play that way. In fact, for cash games I would not recommend going unconventional at all. In a cash game you have time to wait for better situations or find a more profitable game. Poker tournaments are a different story. In a tournament, due to shortage of time, speculative, expensive and risky moves like this become necessary. Even being the best player at the table you may not get time to let your skills work before ever growing blinds consume your stack. Just playing your cards will not win tournaments for you. I am not talking about once in a lifetime event when stars align and you get all the right cards. Hot streaks aside, there are not enough good cards in a deck to provide you with low-risk starting hands in which you are an overwhelming favorite. That’s unadorned truth about tournament poker. To succeed in poker tournaments, you must take risks, big risks. Moves like this where you triple your stack can sometime alone propel you into the money. The skill is in finding opportunities where upside more than compensates for the risk. The move with suited connectors certainly qualifies.  It is profitable on its own and provides a great bang for the buck. Its power coming from a chance to triple up. As I mentioned earlier this situation does not arise too often. A typical player could save perhaps something like one tournament a year. Is it worth it? - It is for me.

When Things Do Not Go As Planned

What happens when you do not flop a strong hand? That, by the way, will happen 91.8% of the time. Clearly if you flopped nothing, you are done with the hand. Note that even if you fold everything but the made hands this move is still profitable under strict conditions describe above. But that’s not all! - You have 20% chance of flopping a strong draw. Let’s look at more interesting cases where you flop a draw and need to decide how and whether to continue in the hand. Before going any further I must mention, you are entering dangerous territory. The pot is big. You should mentally prepare to get all your chips in the middle if you decide to play. This hand just might be your last in this tournament.

I will share some tips how to navigate such situation. However, the truth is you are on your own. There are just too many different situations to analyze. I personally would continue playing only if I have a flush draw or straight draw with top pair and upper end of the straight. Something like QJ on board of 9TQ. Plus there are no possibilities of full house. The good news is you have almost 11% chance of hitting a flush draw on the flop. Almost the same chance of hitting a straight draw. So ~20% time you might consider staying in the hand.

You may have wondered why I insisted on having the button. Playing draws is where having position is crucial. Position gives you options to still win this big pot even though your hand, while has potential, is third best at the moment. If you are facing tight players and flop betting is not too strong, then you may choose to go all in with strong draws.  Against loose, aggressive players you may take a free card. Then, if your flush comes in on the turn, let them represent it and go into calling mode. When there is an obvious flush draw on the board most players tend to play straightforwardly. This is a spot where watching your opponents’ bet sizing can give you reliable clues. Expect a smaller bet if opponent(s) is drawing. A larger bet, something like ⅔ of the pot or more, tells you they are afraid that you have a flush draw.

On rare occasions this move can backfire. You might make your flush and run into higher flush or have your set beaten by top set. These are just bad beats. Do not slip into result oriented mindset. Though sad, occasional bad beats should not be a reason to question your game. They are random accidents. You shrug them off and go on to play next session of poker. The most frustrating one for me in context of unconventional move with suited connectors is when original raiser just happens to hold Aces. They may elect to go all in preflop forcing you to fold. Thus wasting your chips on expensive call.


Conclusion

Making moves in poker, especially in tournament poker where survival itself is valuable, requires  some mental fortitude and clear thinking. You have to identify the right moments for moves, then have conviction to pull the trigger. The best way to acquire such unwavering conviction is to have a clear understanding why you are making moves and what outcomes will follow. Hopefully, this article helps understanding how to make a move with suited connectors. Also why such moves should become a staple of your poker toolbox.
There was an error in this gadget