Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Playing Loose Aggressive in No Limit Texas Hold Em

Bring out the Sammy Farha in you! Well it's not that easy, he is a world class player who has played poker far longer and better than I have. What I have the most respect for is that he can play this style of poker so masterfully, as seen on High Stakes Poker.

Now I have to be completely honest with my audience. I do not know how to play Loose Aggressive very well. I am still learning, and I plan on using my blog, practice and my friends at to help me develop the skills necessary. I did however recently have a chance to play some loose aggressive poker and did alright even though I lost a bit of money. Mostly from unlucky cards, but I got into my opponents heads and made them make bad calls.

Here is my current strategy for playing Loose Aggressive. Come into a table and play tight ABC poker for 25-50 hands, so you can build a tight image and so you can garner some information from your competition, point out the tight wads, and the loosey goosey types.

Then you start to step up the raising. Every time you aren't in the blinds and it's limped or folded to you, put in a 4 times big blind raise. If you are in the blinds with a premium hand, raise it up. If you are in the small blind with an opportunity to steal the big blind, make a bet. You will find yourself betting about 40-50% of the time. You will steal a lot of pots, and probably enrage a few opponents who want to mix it up with you.

This is where the information is useful, if a player is still playing tight and fights back, he's probably got a good hand. If it's a player who is fed up with you and calls every bet you make, then slow down after the flop if you hit nothing, but speed up if you have a premium hand. You will be paid off by these tilters with you big hands.

This brings me to my hand example. I had this opponent on tilt, he would call me with anything and I spiked a premium hand.

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $0.25 BB (8 handed)

CO ($38)

Button ($22.50)

SB ($13.20)

BB ($4.45)

UTG ($33.40)

UTG+1 ($3.25)

MPA ($12.45)

MP2 ($28.20)

Preflop: Hero is MP1 with Qd, Qs.

2 folds, MPA raises to $1, MP2 calls $1, 2 folds, SB calls $0.90, 1 fold.

Flop: ($3.25) 5d, 3h, 8d (3 players)

SB checks, MPA bets $2, MP2 raises to $4, SB folds, MPA raises to $11.45, MP2 calls $7.45.

Turn: ($26.15) 8h (2 players)

River: ($26.15) Js (2 players)

Final Pot: $26.15

Hero has Qd Qs (two pair, queens and eights).

MP2 has Ah 8c (three of a kind, eights).

Outcome: MP2 wins $26.15.

I got unlucky, had him drawing to 5 outs, and he hit it. At least I had my entire stack in with the best of it, and I made a very profitable play. You can't win them all unless you only play the nuts. I shook it off as a learning experience.

Please please if you have any comments, suggestions, experiences with playing Loose Aggressive, shoot me a comment or go to my post on poker-strategy and post your comments on the hand there. I am determined to become a Farha Jr. as I believe in the current landscape of tight wads on internet poker that this is the most profitable way to play Texas hold em right now if played well.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

How do you play AK or Big Slick in No Limit Hold 'Em?

Ace King is one of the trickiest hands to play in No Limit Hold Em. It's argueably the 3rd best hand in poker, even though in a heads up all-in situation they are behind 22-QQ. This hand gets it's edge over lower pocket pairs because lower pocket pairs often have to fold when faced with overcards and aggression postflop.

The only hands you have to worry about are AA and KK. These hands have you dominated, but it's more easy to get away from these hands with AK because if you don't hit your pair you often won't go further than the flop against big aggression.

You make your big money against hands you have dominated that are overplayed, such as AQ, AJ, AT, KQ, KJ. Players who know no better will go all-in with top pair second best kicker without considering that you could easily have AK.

So how do you play this hand?

I recommend an aggressive approach, you want to isolate the smaller pocket pairs, and the hands you have dominated that are still willing to see a flop with AQ, AJ, KQ, etc.

If you hit the flop then you have to decide what your opponent is willing to go all in with, if he is good and is committing on the flop then you should fold because your opponent will probably not be holding the second best pair, and is more likely holding a set or two pair. If your opponent is clueless enough to commit with second best kicker then you should commit with your top pair top kicker.

If you don't hit the flop, continue to be aggressive, there is a good chance that your opponent didn't hit the flop either and if there is overcards to his lower pocket pair he will be forced to fold. If you meet a lot of resistance and your opponent isn't overly tricky, then fold because he probably got a piece of it or has an overpair to the board.

When would I play this hand passively? When there are particular loose passive games. When it takes a large bet to make people fold and when you do put in a bet big enough to fold people's hands it's often folding everything except QQ, KK, AA. In these situations I would rather connect big on the board, see every street as cheaply as possible and value bet the flop, turn and river when you hit it big.

When you play passively you have to make sure you have a big hand. No longer can you commit with top pair top kicker. You can be aggressive with it on the flop, but don't commit unless you are shortstacked. Chase your flush draws if you have proper implied odds (you are deepstacked, your opponents are deepstacked, and you feel you have a good chance to get most of their money in the middle when you do make your hand.)

Playing AK with a shortstack.

This is simple, you should put in around 10% of your stack or 3-5bb. If you hit your pair or better on the flop then you should commit and try and get your money and everyone else's money in the middle as quickly as possible.

Playing AK with a deepstack.

This is much more complicated. Again, decide whether to play it aggressively or passively. Then it comes down to reading, calculating, and reacting. You need to put your opponent on a range of hands on every street, calculate your odds of you hand winning by showdown and how much it will cost to see showdown, calculate your odds of you bluffing your opponent out of his range of hands, and react and make a decision based on which is the most profitable decision, seeing the hand to the showdown, bluffing your opponent off his hand, or folding.

My advice with this hand. If you are new to the game and your reads are still developing then I suggest just playing shorthanded and use the simple strategy of committing on the flop when you hit your hand.

If you are a good player, then depend on your reads and calculations and stick to those decisions, don't deviate from your plans just because of a twitch or self-doubt.