Free Poker Strategy Articles

A collection of poker posts written by poker players for poker players

Poker Promotions Strategy

Are Bad Beat Jackpots Worth It? (Strategy With BBJ & High Hand Promotions)

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Many live poker rooms run a variety of promotions to get players into the casino and grinding long hours. While these promotions range from bad beat jackpots (BBJ) to high hand promotions to drawings and lucky seat promotions, they all have the same goal: keep butts in the chair and cards in the air.

But the most important question is should you adjust your strategy at all when these promotions are active? So let’s explore that through the lens of this question:

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The Preflop Poker Checklist (Updated In 2019)

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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 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 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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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 being too nitty is a big leak…

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.

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!

Ace King Book

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.

poker potodds

Poker Pot Odds Made Easy

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Poker has a lot of mathematical elements…but pot odds are the most important.  A solid understanding of pot odds will allow you to play draws better, go all-in preflop & postflop, and handle a wide range of decisions with ease. In this video I show you what pot odds are and how to use them using both a preflop and postflop example. There is also a link to a free tool down below that will automatically convert pot odds to percentages and vice versa. Same as always, if you enjoy reading, you can read the whole script below. Enjoy!

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Hello, and welcome to today’s quick plays video on using pot odds in poker.  Pot odds are one of the most fundamental mathematical elements in poker, so understanding them is crucial for your success.  In this video I’ll show you what pot odds are, how to use them, and show some real application with examples.

First, what are pot odds?  You may have heard players talking about “getting 3:1 on a call” or “facing a shove and getting 1.5:1 on their stack”.  These are examples of pot odds expressed as ratios.  Pot odds are just a mathematical expression of risk and reward that can then be used to make better plays both preflop and postflop.

Don’t consider yourself good with math? Let me show you how a simple math-based poker strategy is easy to grasp!

Let’s start by understanding what it means when we are getting 3:1 pot odds on a call.  Whenever you see this kind of ratio it is telling you what your reward is for your current risk.  The first number, which is almost always larger, is the reward and the second number is what you need to risk.

So take a classic example where the pot is $80 and your opponent shoves $40 into it.  That means we need to risk $40 to call his shove, and our reward is what’s in the pot…so the $80 plus his $40 shove.  That means we are getting 120:40, which simplifies down to 3:1.

Betting half pot

Now we can take this ratio and turn it into a percentage.  We simply take risk/(risk+reward), or in this case 1/4, to get 25%.  This is the key part, so pay attention!  This means we need 25% equity, or chance of winning the pot, to breakeven.  If we have less than 25% equity it’s an outright –EV call.  If we have more than 25% equity it’s an outright +EV call.  We should always focus on making +EV plays, and pot odds can help us make them more often!

Let’s look at two examples to show how to apply this concept on the tables…

In this first example the CO opens, and we 3bet from the BB with AK.  The CO shoves for $40 more and it’s back to us.  At this point our risk is how much we have to call, or $33.  Our reward is the current pot, or $53.50.  So we are getting roughly 1.6:1 on a call.  To then get a percentage out of that we take 1/2.6 which gives us 38%.  So if our AK has more than 38% equity against the range the cutoff would shove this is a +EV call.

If you don’t know how to calculate equity you can watch our free video on using Equilab.  But if we assume the CO is shoving a range of TT+/AK we have 43% equity.  And the wider he shoves the more equity we’ll have.  Again, if our equity is higher than the pot odds, it’s a +EV play and in this case we should call.  We won’t win 100% of  the time, but mathematically this is a correct call unless we think the CO is only shoving QQ+.

Ace King Against Strong Range

In this next spot we open 98s from MP, the button calls and we see a HU flop of Q76.  We CBet, he calls.  The turn is a 3, we double barrel, and he raises to $36.  We can use the concept of pot odds even when we are facing a normal raise rather than a shove.  So in this spot we are risking $24, since that’s how much we need to call, to win the current pot of $65.50.  This comes out to 2.7:1 and means we need at least 27% equity here.

Using the simple 4/2 rule to estimate our equity, and assuming improving to any 5 or Ten would give us the best hands, we can times 8×2 to estimate our equity.  That gives us 16% equity here, and given the pot odds we need 27%.  It’s easy to see that we are not getting a proper price to continue with our draw so our best play would be to fold.  The pot odds are incorrect given our equity, there isn’t much money left to win even if we do hit, and thus folding is the default play here.

One last thing if you want to practice this on your own, is the free tool on ThePokerBank.com.  Using this tool you can plug in a ratio and get it converted to a percentage, and vice versa.  This is good practice so you can begin to memorize some of the basic ones.

You can use this free tool by clicking here: LINKY

That is pot odds in a nutshell.  The ratio is simply another way of displaying your risk/reward, and the reward is always the pot while your risk is always what you need to call.  This ratio can be converted to a percentage which then gives you the required equity needed to continue in the hand.  There are tangential concepts like implied odds that can help you visualize the future value of drawing…but we’ll cover that in another video.

Spend some time with pot odds so you can memorize some of the basic ones, like 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1…which will make your life at the tables much easier.  Mathematical poker concepts like this never change, so you only need to learn it once and it will benefit you for the rest of your poker playing days!

Same as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know…otherwise…good luck and happy grinding!

How Is A Bluff Breakeven In Poker?

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Poker math can be confusing at times. One of the biggest head-scratchers is around the concept of breakeven, or 0EV, and how that really works. Since we either win the hand (making money), or lose the hand (losing money), and pretty much never walk away with exactly $0. So today we’re going to explain how a bluff can end up being breakeven, using some simple poker math.

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free poker sheets

Free Poker Spreadsheets

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Poker contains a lot of repetitive math, especially when studying poker hands away from the table. While you can use software to do a lot of this math, sometimes a good ‘ol fashioned spreadsheet is the best way to visualize and play with the numbers. So to save you a tremendous amount of time, I put together this pack of my spreadsheets that you are free to use while exploring spots!

This is a name your own product, so if money is super-tight, you can even pay $0. But if you throw a few chips my way, not only would I massively appreciate it, but I’ll also give you a free PRO video AND over $200 in discounts. No pressure either way – I just wanted you to know your options 😃

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Hands To Play UTG In Live Poker

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You are playing in a live $1/$2 poker game. You are first to act UTG and look down at your hand. Do you know which hands you’ll play from UTG? Which hands will you fold? Are you going to open-limp at all?

Let’s discuss crafting an UTG range that makes you profit, while figuring out when to play tighter AND looser – including the key variables that most players overlook. Continue reading

JJ In A Tough Spot Postflop

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Pocket Jacks tend to create a ton of heartache for players. Most of the time JJ cannot handle a heap of preflop pressure, it faces an overcard on the flop a ton, and even when the flop does cooperate it doesn’t mean the turn and river will. But like any other starting hand, good play means understanding what goes into making solid preflop and postflop decisions, and then utilizing that strategy at the tables.

To help us do that, let’s breakdown this hand sent in by Anthony. Here, we have to make some serious postflop decisions when JJ faces a really ugly turn card… Continue reading

free poker tool

What Is A Poker Fold Equity Calculator?

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I use many tools when analyzing poker hands away from the table…but one of my favorite tools is the fold equity calculator.  This tool only requires a few simple inputs to give me information about how often my opponent needs to fold in order for me to run a bluff.  This is super helpful when going all-in preflop, semi-bluffing draws postflop, and increasing your overall aggression.

This free video will show you what fold equity is, what a fold equity calculator is, and how to use this tool on your own.  As always, if you are a reader make sure to check out the script below.  Enjoy!

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Hello, and welcome to today’s Quick Plays video on using a fold equity calculator.  There are so many different poker tools available, but this is one tool that I use quite often.  In this video, I’ll show you what a fold equity calculator is, how it’s useful, and show you how to use it with some examples! Continue reading

Playing Overpairs On Wet Flops

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Overpairs are usually very easy to play. Be aggressive preflop, continue being aggressive postflop, and aim to get looked up by someone who couldn’t fold their second-best holding.

But sometimes the board is less than ideal, and sometimes draws complete. And in this hand – BOTH of those things occur! So let’s breakdown how to play overpairs on wet flops (and as-played, when draws get there)… Continue reading