Hand Analysis — the poker how to

May 1st, 2009 — General, Hand Analysis, Poker Tips, Surfing, Trip Reports

So after a long hiatus I’m back!


I’ve spent the last 6 months playing poker and traveling the world surfing, most recently to Hawaii.

Poker gives me the perfect combination of flexible schedule and portability – I can play free poker from anywhere that has an internet connection, and when the waves are up I can drop what I’m doing and go!

Hawaii was incredible!   I went with my fianceé Maria, we stayed in Waikiki for 3 days, and then we stayed on the North Shore for 5 days.  We were lucky to get some late-season swell on the north shore, and Maria snapped some awesome photos.


I’ll be recounting both poker adventures and surfing adventures in my posts from now on.

Poker, too!

Poker-wise I’m continuing to play $5/10 NL, and while game conditions have changed they are still quite beatable.

I’ve seen an increase in aggression in recent months, with many players becoming more tenacious about fighting for pots, and more paranoid about being bluffed.

Here’s an example that illustrates the change in the games, and also a counter-strategy.

$5/10 w/ $1400 stacks.
I raise Q♦K♥ on the CO to $35, and an aggressive, tenacious player in the blinds 3bets to $125.  I call.

A few years ago this would be a turbofold, nowadays a call is totally standard, and some argue for reraising!

Flop: K♦ 3♣ 4♥  (Pot: $260)

Villain bets $165 into $260.  This is a standard-sized cbet especially on a dry board.

A year ago I might have called for pot control, and to see what develops on the turn and river.  I wouldn’t want to build a big pot, because if I got the full 140bbs in my opponent would usually have AK, KK, or AA.

Today, however, I make a glorified min-raise to $400.  My opponent has been aggressive with 3bets, and is paranoid about being bluffed.

He also likely assumes(here his suspicions set in) that I would 4bet him preflop if I had a hand like A-K, and that I might be inclined to slowplay 444 or 333 on such a dry flop.

He quickly reraises all-in for  $1275 total, I call.  He shows 77.

While this player is more aggressive than normal, it illustrates an important point – by making my hand look like I’m getting frustrated and fighting back my opponent’s over-aggression and suspicion works to my advantage.

The hardest part about this hand is hitting top pair, haha!

Good luck at the tables!

How To: Spot And Adjust To A Tilting Opponent

February 1st, 2008 — General, Hand Analysis, Psychology

I like to observe a few things about my opponent as I play:

  • Is there a consistent fold/check/bet speed?
  • Is s/he saying anything in chat?
  • What is my opponents “comfort zone?”

Especially in HU, it can be easy to recognize a consistent speed at which your opponent acts, usually a couple seconds for each decision.

A player on tilt, however, may start making decisions incredibly quickly – calling or betting near-instantly for multiple hands in a row.

Sometimes chat is a dead giveaway. If you see lots of cursing, “OMG I CANT BELIEVE YOU HIT THAT,” etc in chat, keep your eyes out for erratic play. This can be faked of course, but it is often accurate.

What Is “Comfort Zone?”

Comfort Zone is how I describe a players “normal” habits of play. Does he like to limp alot preflop, or does he like to raise?

Usually when a player gets out of his or her CZ it’s for a reason. If Mr.Limpy min-checkraises the turn for the first time in 200 hands, he’s probably got a big hand.

However, sometimes it is drastic and consistent…all of a sudden Mr. Limpy starts raising every hand preflop. Or, Mr.Tight starts calling you down with mid pair.

What has happened? The player has told himself something about you, perhaps “He’s crazy! I wont stand for it any more!” or “I’m not going to get run over any longer, now I’m going to win some pots!”

Regardless, he’s gotten out of his comfort zone and is now playing erratically and irrationally.

Now is the time to adapt.

Adapting To A Tilter

Now once you are quite sure your opponent is actually tilting – he’s gone from limping and calling to uttering a non-stop stream of obscenities into chat, and raising every hand – now is the time to adjust.

So, we want to encourage whatever he’s doing wrong. If he’s raising and betting, lets let him do that. Call KQ-type hands preflop, and let him hang himself with bluffs if you flop top pair.

Note that a tilting player may stop tilting if he wins a good size pot, so it’s important to play a bit tight, and let him win tiny pots until you have a hand to make your move with, like TP or a decent 2nd pr.

If he’s started calling you down light, or calling bets very fast without thinking, it’s time to run a fake bluff.

2/4 NL HU, 100bb eff

Hero raises 33 from the button/SB to $12, Tilter calls in the BB.
Our opponent has started calling bets very fast, and seems to have told himself that Hero is crazy.

Flop: 3QTr ($24)
Jackpot flop, now it’s time to get some value.

BB checks, Hero bets $20, BB instacalls.

turn: 2o ($64)

BB checks, Hero bets $60, BB instacalls.

At this point, the super-fast-calls usually mean he has either a made hand that he’s decided to “call my bluff” with, or he has a strong draw like JK. The draw is folding the river UI, so we can ignore it and go for value from made hands.

River: 2o ($184)

BB checks, Hero goes All-In for $308, BB instacalls with Q7o.

BB in this hand clearly only beats a bluff, but he has convinced himself so thoroughly that Hero is crazy that he is willing to put his whole stack in to try and beat a bluff.

Ordinarily this might not be the most optimal way to extract value, but if you can spot changes in your opponents play you will see new areas for profit.

$11,247.50 In One Day!

December 12th, 2007 — General, Hand Analysis, Huge Wins, Odds

Ran really hot today…


(click image for enlarged version)

I won a fair amount of pots without the goods, but today was one of those great days where I flop set over set, hit the nuts vs top2, etc, and just repeatedly stack people.

Also, one maniac at my table doubled me up twice, most notably for ~$1600 at 5/10.

He raises from the CO to $35, I 3bet to $150 with AA since he will call reraises light and we are deep.

I bet $200 into ~$300 on the flop (QT6r) and shove when he raises to $525 – he calls with a bare gutshot for over 160bbs! Fortunately he doesn’t hit(~18% chance) and I scoop a nice $3200 pot.

It wasn’t all easy though, I dodged a set by folding an overpair vs an aggressive flop c/r, and managed to fold a split 2pair vs a set in another hand. Saving bets is as important as earning them!

This $11,247.50 day was awesome. It ended up being over $2600/hr, crazy!

I do have to pay taxes at the end of Dec though, that’s going to be a bit painful after all this! icon_smile-4158441

What Does Britney Spears And My Opponent Have In Common?

November 19th, 2007 — Hand Analysis

Johnny Cash is singing in the background. My session is going great, just came home from the gym and so far I’ve played godlike poker.

I get dealt Kclub-2745924Kdiamond-8626228 and raise it to a standard 3.5BB in the CO. My opponent who is too loose and too passive calls in the small blind. He plays around 50% of his hands and only raises 10% of them. He is also one of the reasons I am at this table icon_wink-4529559

The flop comes Qdiamond-86262283diamond-86262282club-2745924

Looks good I thought, he is very unlikely to have hit that flop hard. My friend checks and calls my 3/4ths pot bet.

Turn is 3spade-6025854

Now he pots it. The things going through my head at this point were:

  • Does he have a hand that beats me?
  • What is he want me to think?
  • What does he want to accomplish?

The first thing I do is start with hands that beat me. Does it make sense for him to have QQ, 33, 22, 3x? First of all, I think he re-raises pre-flop with QQ so I can pretty much rule it out. Also on the flop he would bet out or check-raise with his sets or twopairs to protect from draws. So I was not particularly worried about sets.

He could have slowplayed pocket aces but that is again very unlikely. A hand that could make sense for him would be something like 43 or A3.

Let’s get to hands I beat. What kind of hand plays like this? Well every draw out there is in his range at this point, as are any queen and some weirdly played pocket pairs.

In My Mind I Went Like This…

Hands I beat: Qx, medium pocket pairs (~40% of the time), flush draws, 45, 56, A5, A4 and add 5-10% chance he can have a random hand or a hand I didn’t count in since he is a loose player.

Hands that beat me: A3, 43 are pretty much the only ones that make sense.

What Does He Want Me To Think?

What I thought at the time was that he was saying “I bet big, you should fold”. His betting made no sense for a made hand wanting to get value. It felt more as a bet to scare me out.

He wants me to believe he has a big hand when in fact he wants me to fold was my psychological analysis of the situation.

The River

Is a safe 9heart-6731305 and he pots it again. Hmm, all the draws missed and I still believe that the only hands he could have that beat me are A3, 43, maybe even 53 but would he bet the for the full pot? Wouldn’t he want to get value out of those and not scare away what looks like a KQish hand for me?

I have to be right about 33% of the time calling a pot bet. If I input what I believe his hand-range is into Poker Stove.

His range: 22,33,53,43, AX spades (except AQ, A9 and A2), JTss-87s

Now notice that I gave him a few more hands than I thought he had. I gave him two sets and 53. Also I was very generous with the draws that I beat, I didn’t even put in the straight draws!

And do you know the equity I have vs. this range? My equity is 43.59% and I need 32-33%!

I didn’t know these numbers at the table but I had a feeling I had to call. So I did and he flipped up 4heart-67313055spade-6025854 for the missed open ender.

So what does Britney Spears and my opponent have in common? They are both unstable icon_wink-4529559

Biggest Day Ever

November 12th, 2007 — General, Hand Analysis, Poker Tips

Friday was my biggest one-day win, ever – I’m still stoked about it! icon_smile-4158441

In ~1,500 hands I won a little bit over $8,500 – not bad for about four hours work!

Most of this was at 5/10NL, with a little bit of 3/6 and a quick shot at 10/20 thrown in.

While I won a couple pots with “tricky” plays like floats(calling without a hand to represent one, usually in position) or “squeeze” re-raises, the majority of the winnings were accomplished with solid fundamentals:

  • Planning the pot-size
  • Extracting value
  • Inducing bluffs / pot control
  • Tilt avoidance

Plan the Pot from the Beginning

5/10 NL, $1000 effective stacks.

I am dealt Aspade-6025854Kclub-2745924 in the cut-off, the UTG player folds and the HJ, an average player, limps.

The standard play is to raise 4-5x the BB. However, I’ve kept my eye on the table and the BB is a complete maniac:

  • He will raise around 30-40% of his hands from any position if there is no raise
  • If there is a raise, he will usually just call.
  • If he gets reraised, he will almost always see a flop.

He’s the “easy money” at the table, so I target him first.I decide to take a chance and hope he has a hand to raise, so I overlimp behind the HJ. The button folds, the SB completes, and to my delight the BB raises to $50.

The first limper folds, and I reraise to $150. It is folded back to the BB who pauses and calls.

At this point my planning has started to take shape – I’ve got a good enough chunk of my stack in preflop that if I hit a pair I can happily get the rest in, since the pot will be ~$320 and we will have $850 remaining.

It may get a bit dicey if I do not hit top pair, but I have position and my opponent is generally entering the pot with a significantly weaker hand, so I’m willing to take that chance.

The flop is the beautiful: Aheart-6731305 Tclub-2745924 2diamond-8626228 (Pot: $320)

I bet $225, and villain thinks for a moment, then check-raises all-in for $625 more. I call quickly – villain has Qheart-6731305Tdiamond-8626228 and my hand holds up.

Careful attention to my opponents, a little planning, and that pretty Ace allowed me to double up here.

Had I just raised pre-flop like normal the BB would have called, and I might have won a small- to medium-sized pot, since I would be forced to play for pot control with such a small portion of my stack invested preflop.

Extracting Value

Extracting value goes hand-in-hand with planning the pot. Here’s an example from 5/10 NL:

Hero(100bb) raises Adiamond-8626228Kdiamond-8626228 to $35 UTG, and gets 3 callers – a shortstack(30bb) in the HJ, a fishy player on the button(100bb), and a TAG in the SB(125bb).

Flop: Aclub-2745924 2club-2745924 2diamond-8626228 (Pot: $150)

At this point, I notice a few things before acting:

  1. The short-stack is irrelevant as I’m happy getting 30bb in w/ TPTK on this board
  2. The TAG never has a 2 unless he has specifically 22 or A2s
  3. The fishy button may hold a 2, but he will likely pay off 3 streets of betting with just an A

As a result, these factors along with the pot size ($150 with $965 left to bet) let me bet my TPTK aggressively because there are so few hands that beat me.

This results in a rare situation where I can commit my stack with top-pair in a multi-way raised pot.

So, I come out and bet $130 into $150. The shortstack folds, the fishy button calls, and the tag folds. This is my ideal scenario, heads-up with the deep fish.

Turn: 4spade-6025854; (pot: $410)

I bet $305, button calls.

River: 8spade-6025854 (pot: $1020)

I go all-in for my remaining $530, and villain calls with AJ.

AK was good to me on Friday icon_smile-4158441

Solid Play Pays Off

Many players get caught up in the idea of “outplaying” their opponents. When it comes down to it, a solid, tight strategy and attention to your opponent’s habits are the most important factors – play well for long enough, and it will pay off!