Category Archives: Beginner Poker Strategy

Crushing Fishy Poker Tables

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Fishy tables are typically your most profitable kind of poker table. Lots of players who are making massive strategic mistakes allow you to play a simple strategy that allows them to beat themselves. And while you could implement a simple style that makes some money, there are some key areas that you can focus on to maximize your profit in these games.

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Poker Players Can Learn A Lot From Fish

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I came across this quote the other day and absolutely fell in love with it because it’s not just applicable to life, but it suits the poker table as well.

“It’s good to learn from mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes.”

Warren Buffet

The first thing I asked myself was, “Who makes the most mistakes at my tables?”

The fish!

They’re the weakest players at any table. They love to see flops so they enter too many pots, and they remain in the pot for too long with weak hands and draws. Fish refuse to fold postflop, they size bets terrible, and they completely misunderstand basic strategy. These mistakes make them the perfect targets for value.

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Are Old Poker Videos Useless?

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“Are old poker videos still relevant?” This was a question I received a while back, and to be honest, it’s a great one. I’ve been creating poker training videos for about a decade, and it’s totally valid to ask if videos posted in 2014 or 2018 are even worth watching at this point.

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TAG Poker Strategy: Explained

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Of the 6 major player types, TAG is the most important.  The average grinder employs a TAG poker strategy and many players should learn a TAG style before doing anything else.  TAG is an abbreviation for “Tight Aggressive” and is in between a nit and a LAG.  In this guide you will learn what a TAG is, get ideas on their ranges, and get some easy-to-use advice for beating them.

What Is A TAG?

Each poker player has basically 2 decisions when the action gets to him – will he fold the hand he’s dealt, or play it?  If he decides to play, then he has one other decision – will he call the amount of the current bet, or will he raise it up?

Play or Fold

Each player has his own decision-making process for deciding which hands they are going to play and which they will fold.  Some players will play every single hand as long as there is no raise (“let’s see a flop, you can’t win if you don’t play!”).  Other players will always fold certain hands but always play others, regardless of the action before them (“deuce-four is my favorite hand”!).  Still others will use other criteria besides their cards for deciding what hands to play – things like their position relative to the blinds or their likely opponents in the hand.  As your poker skills improve your decision matrix for choosing which hands to play gets simpler.

We describe the number of hands that a player will play as either being “loose” (plays lots of hands) or “tight” (plays few hands).  The TAG player follows the latter strategy – he plays relatively few of the total hands he is dealt.  Most TAGs play less than 1 out of every 5 hands they are dealt, meaning that they’re folding preflop over 80% of the time.

Did you know that folding too much is a HUGE issue? See why folding too much sucks.

The second decision, whether to call the current amount of the bet or raise, describes whether a player is “passive” (tends to call), or “aggressive” (tends to raise).  The TAG player tends towards the latter – he stays aggressive most of the time.  If you plot the two decisions onto a coordinate system, where loose/tight makes up the x-axis and passive/aggressive makes up the y axis, you’ll see the TAG player in the upper right of the coordinate system.

tag versus lag

I would add one further defining characteristic to most TAGs – and that is that they are aware of the power of position at the table. Most TAGs have learned that nearly every decision in poker is easier when you are the last to act, and they tailor their decisions to making sure that they play in position as often as possible.

Should You Play A TAG Strategy?

If you are at the beginning of your poker career and are trying to learn how to play well, the unequivocal answer to this question is YES, you should strive to learn as much as possible about the TAG style and why it is successful.  As mentioned above, TAGs have learned good hand selection and the power of position – these attributes help keep him out of too many tough spots, and give him a clear advantage over beginning players who are willing to play a weaker starting range of hands without having position. TAG players can make money at low stakes games by taking advantage of players who haven’t learned as much yet.

Read this article if you think you are ready to play a LAG strategy

How Do You Beat TAGs?

Once you learn the TAG style, you’ll have a clear edge over the bad players (usually the loose passives and the tight passives on the graphic above), but you won’t have much of an advantage over the other TAGs at the table.  In fact, if you find yourself at a table full of nothing but TAGs, you should probably leave the table – there isn’t much money for you to win there – the only big pots you stand to get involved in are “cooler” type hands where two of you flop sets or monster draws.  We don’t win money long term by trading coolers with other good players.

With that in mind, you still will find yourself at tables where there are plenty of bad players to pick from, but there are also a few TAGs sitting as well.  Instead of simply avoiding these players completely, here are three things you can be doing to make sure you’re eking out a bit of profit from them, as well.

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1. Steal Their Blinds

Having TAGs on your left is usually not a terrible situation because they are often going to give up their blinds without a fight.  TAGs have learned not to play pots out of position, and being in the blinds means that you have poor postflop position for the entire hand.  Many TAGs will make no effort to defend against a steal – they will simply look at their cards and fold them, sometimes upwards of 80% of the time!

Look for situations to steal blinds from tight players. When you’re on the button, your own cards don’t even matter if your opponents are going to fold their blinds given basic poker math.  You could steal without looking at your cards at all and turn a profit!  But also look beyond when you’re on the button – maybe you can steal blinds from the cutoff if the button has a propensity to fold often too.  Maybe you can find 2 TAGs all the way around the table and steal their blinds when you’re in early position.  Keep looking for opportunities to steal blinds from tight players.

2. Defend Your Button

Remember, TAGs hate to play out of position.  When you have the dealer button, you are guaranteed to have position over every other player at the table for this hand.  If a TAG opens in front of you, you often have a prime resteal opportunity.

Look at the graphic below – on the left it shows a typical TAG opening range from middle position of about 15% – he is raising all pocket pairs and most unpaired broadway hands.  Which of these hands is he going to continue with if you reraise him?  A good TAG will fold the smaller pairs, knowing he cannot profitably try and flop a set on you  (depending on the effective stack sizes).  He will definitely fold all the “trouble” hands like KQ, KJ, and JQ.  Some TAGs will even fold hands like TT, AQ, and AK!  The right side shows what hands the many TAGs will continue with if you reraise – notice that they’re folding between 2/3 and 3/4 of the time.

TAG Raising Range

15% Range Of Hands

TAG Strong Range

5% Range Of Hands

Once again, if you identify a situation where somebody is going to fold 75% of the time, you usually make that play without even looking at your hand, and you will profit long term.  Look for situations where you think a TAG will fold to your button re-steal.

3. Raise Their Continuation Bets

TAGs have often learned one of the most common bluffs in Texas Holdem – the “continuation bet” – which is a bet on the flop no matter if their own hand has hit this flop hard or not.  On certain types of boards, the TAG will often continuation bet 100% of the time, no matter what he is holding.  Interestingly, these same boards are often the same ones that make it very hand to have a strong hand.

Take an example board like K  7  3.  A TAG will like his hand if he has pocket kings, sevens, or threes, and he’ll be pretty comfortable with AA or AK and maybe KQ, but what about all of the other hands he could have?  Pocket eights thru queens, AQ, AJ, QJ, and plenty of other hands that a TAG will open have missed this board entirely.

Without getting into the background math too deeply, you can often simply put in a raise of a TAG’s continuation bet on dry, unconnected boards like this, and there isn’t much the TAG will be able to do about it (unless he wants to re-bluff you with ace high or second pair).  The TAG will assume you’ve flopped a set on him and fold.  Some TAGs will even fold top pair or an overpair to these raises (learning the maxim “don’t go broke with one pair”), meaning these bluff raises will work even more often!

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Conclusion

Playing the TAG style is one of the first milestones in a poker student’s journey to becoming a good player, and you should learn about this style and attempt to adopt its principles as soon as possible if you’re studying how to learn poker and play it well.  But TAGs aren’t playing perfectly, either, and you should be able to use some of the tricks above to make sure you can hold your own against them at the tables.

Implied Odds

Implied Odds In Poker

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Implied odds are a term that most poker players are aware of, but very few truly know what they are. You will hear players cite implied odds as their reasoning for making questionable plays, but ask them what they are, and they slink back in their chair. 

So let’s fully break down this concept and show you the shortcut for making simple estimates at the table. Push play and continue reading for additional examples and the implied odds formula.

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The Preflop Poker Checklist

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Preflop play should be fairly simple, but most players struggle preflop because they lack a plan. So to make your life easier, I put together my preflop checklist that you can begin using in your next session. This preflop checklist contains just 6 things that will keep you focused on the right information preflop and help you decide if you should fold, limp-behind, or attack with a big raise.

Most players build their preflop strategy solely around a hand chart they found online. Now don’t get me wrong-a poker hand range chart can be helpful. But charts are limiting if you don’t know when (and how) to deviate from them. So instead of trying to remember 128 different ranges from each position – let’s focus on the big 6 things that impact your ranges, sizes, and edges preflop. And to make life easier, I’ve named this the PLANES Method since it’s easy to remember!

So let’s break down each letter in this checklist…

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Live & Casino Poker Strategy 101

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Live poker, and poker played in casinos and cardrooms, requires some strategic nuance to win more per hour. With some basic adjustments and a deeper understanding of the game flow, you’ll find both preflop and postflop much easier to play.

This guide is going to break down some easy adjustments you can make to your game to capitalize on the uniqueness of live poker games. Learn how to play in games where players hate folding preflop, playing with different stack sizes, the mechanics of bluffing, beating slow players, and even how to craft your own preflop ranges.

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Poker Expected Value (EV) Formula

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EV, short for expected value, is the most vital mathematical concept in poker.  When we say that something is +EV it means the play is expected to be profitable in the longrun.  Whereas a play that is -EV is expected to lose us money in the longrun.  

The Poker EV Formula

The most simple poker expected value (EV) formula is this:

EV = (%W * $W) – (%L * $L)
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SPR Formula

SPR Strategy And Concept In Poker

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SPR, short for stack-to-pot-ratio, is a powerful concept that can help you take better lines both preflop and postflop. If you can understand and apply SPR strategy in poker you will have a mathematical framework for commitment. Here is the SPR formula:

SPR = Effective Stack Size / Pot Size

We simply take the effective stack (the smallest of the stacks involved in a hand) and divide it by the pot size. So if we both have $200 and the pot is currently $10, we are in a 20 SPR pot.

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How To Use Equilab Poker Software

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Equilab is poker software that 90% of players are using to do in-depth equity calculations, explore ranges, and save hundreds of hours when studying their hands between sessions. 

But complex software can be a bit confusing to use, so I made a quick video showing you how to start using Equilab. Whether you’ve been using Equilab for years, or just heard about this software today, this video & guide will help you use this tool more efficiently.

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