Winning at Poker

Why to play Tight Up Front!

My Thoughts on Competitiveness

Stop Moaning and Start Thinking

Snippet from How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed and Won Millions

Chip Value

Lessons From the FBI

Playing the Maniac

Out of Focus

God Bless Men

First Big Bellagio Win (long)

Fun With HBO

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of Connecting Low Cards

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of AA

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of A2

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of Baby Pairs

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Playing Stranded Big Pairs

Q & A With Annie Duke

Movin' on Up

The 30-bet Rule

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Underestimating the Value of Connecting High Cards



Why to play Tight Up Front!top
April 18, 2006 07:34 PM - by Annie Duke

I am often asked in interviews what my three biggest tips are to new players. My number one tip is always to play tight.  From my experience, most new players play about 80% of the hands they are dealt in Texas Hold'em. In fact, the reverse should be the case, they should only play about 20% of the hands they are dealt.  This probably isn't earth shattering news to anyone who has played a reasonable amount of poker. But this is a deep concept that is worth understanding.

The concept of playing tight actually only applies to the overall percentage of hands you play.  When you are first to act or under the gun you should play so tight that you only play around 5% of the hands you are dealt, while in other positions, like the button or the big blind, you can drastically expand that percentage.  It is only the average that should be around 20%.   Up front almost no hand should look good to you unless it is AQ or better or at least 66 or better. But why so tight?

There are many reasons to play super tight up front but the one I want to focus on has to do with a decision making disadvantage.  When we play poker we never want to lose sight of the fact that this is a game of decision making.  You have a decision at each point during a hand when the action is on you and if you are better at making those decisions than your opponents you will win lots of money. The road to becoming the better decision maker is to bring to bear the maximum amount of information available to you.  In poker, this means using the information available to you to narrow down the holdings of your opponents. And therein lies the problem with playing loose up front.  You will always be acting with the least information available because you don't know what your opponents are going to do after you.  They will always know what your action is when they have to act.  They will have been able to watch you look at your cards.  They will have been able to study your face, your body posture, and the way you threw the chips in the pot when you acted.  You?  You will have none of that information.

Consider an example from the business world.  In business negotiations it is a huge disadvantage to go first.  When you go first you have no idea what the other person's range might be so you run the risk of negotiating against yourself.  It is a disaster when you offer an amount in a negotiation that is higher than the amount the other negotiator would have accepted.  But it is difficult to know ahead of time what the other person's range will be.

Therefore, if you are to act first in a negotiation it is better to act from a position of strength.  You need to have done the maximum research on the topic, have acquired the most information to offer the most reasonable number…one that is lower than what your opponent wants but close to his range.    You need to really have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with an offer before the negotiation. 

The person second to act in the negotiation?  Well they don't have to work quite as hard because the mere act of the other person offering first puts them at a huge advantage.  They already know the other person's range and can then negotiate based on this information.  That is not to say that the person second to act doesn't need to know their stuff.  They do!!  It is important that they know if the first person has lowballed them, but they don't need to be quite as strong acting. 

Poker is just like this.  The person acting second can really loosen up.  They can call raises with hands they would never raise in first position with because they know they will be acting second in the rest of the decision making process, acting with the maximum amount of information.  They will be able to limp in with a much wider range of hands when people have limped before them because the dangers of getting raised behind you are so small when only the blinds are left to act.  And when the action gets to the button and everyone has folded in front of them, they can raise with 70% to 80% of the hands they are dealt, partially because they know they will act last for the rest of the hand.

The poor guy under the gun?  Well for him the opposite is always true.  He can't limp in because the risk is too high - being raised behind him, having no idea of what the 9 people left to act are going to do.  For the rest of the hand he knows he will have to act early in the decision making process.  Having no idea of the quality of his 9 opponents' holdings, he has to be much more aware of the hands he raises with. 

Being the first to act in poker is like being handcuffed to the decision making process.  So play tight up front.

My Thoughts on Competitiveness
February 22, 2006 02:04 PM - by Annie Duke

My parents met across a card table, over a game of bridge when my mother's bridge game needed a fourth.  I guess, given the inception of my parents' romance, competitiveness and a love of cards would be bred into my brother and me. From the moment we entered the world, we entered with a desire to win and our parents encouraged that desire.  Nature and nurture worked in perfect synergy to create children who wanted nothing more than to win at our family's nightly card games.

My father was a ranked, regional amateur tennis player.  If anyone needs an insight into the crazy competitiveness of the household my brother, Howard, and I were brought up in they need look no further than a father who wanted to win at all costs, even his health.  During the humid New Hampshire summers he would go out to the finals of his regional tennis matches and become dehydrated, his electrolytes totally out of balance.  My father cramping and barely able to move without extreme pain, I would watch him finish every match, grimacing as he ran for every ball, fighting through the pain to win no matter what.  As soon as he finished, we would rush him to the hospital to get poked with iv's until his body came back.

I was born with a desire to win but I learned that winning meant everything.  It became part of my being, perhaps my defining characteristic, for much of my young adulthood....until I started playing poker.

Until I started playing poker the desire to win bled into everything I did.  When I played games with my family—cards, Scrabble and the like—I would generally lose.  My sister was too young to play so I was always the youngest.  I never seemed to outsmart my much older brother or my father and the evenings would invariably end with me throwing a tantrum, whipping the cards against the wall or over turning a game board in tears.

When it came to relationships I was the same way.  I had to win at everything, win every argument no matter how insignificant.  I had to always be right.  I had to have the best grades among all my peers.  As you can imagine, this attitude did not make me too popular. A desire to win that strong is not a recipe for healthy and long lasting friendships or relationships.  If the goal is to always win, it is difficult to sustain a healthy friendship which requires give and take.

I think most people would assume that being a professional poker player would increase one's competitive desire.  Poker, after all, is competition in its purest form.  There is no team, no cooperative play.  It is every man for him/herself and crushing your opponents is not only part of the game, it is the very goal.  But poker teaches you that winning isn't everything, at least in the short run.  Poker teaches you that what matters is making good decisions and, if you do that, everything will work itself out in the end.

When I first starting playing in Billings, Montana I would become so emotionally upset by losses that I would drive home in tears and immediately call my brother when I got home to moan to him about my bad luck, how nothing went right, unable to get myself calmed down about the loss. My brother pounded it into my head that I had to stop this, that that kind of reaction to losing was counterproductive to winning at poker.  He worked with me for hours to calm my competitiveness, the desire to win every hand, every session, the tendency to become veritably unhinged by losing.

Poker is a game of making good decisions.  Every hand we play has several decision points and the players who are better at making decisions about raising, calling, checking or folding are the ones who will win in the long run.  We all know humans make the best decisions when they are unemotional.  Becoming unhinged by losing a hand puts you in an emotional state and if you carry that into the next hand or, worse, the rest of the session, or even worse than that, the next session you play, you will be playing a lot of hours under circumstances where you are not your best decision maker.

Being so competitive is what made me become unhinged by losing.  I had to learn that making good decisions, getting my money in pots with the best hand, that was my goal as a player.  I had to learn a long run view, an understanding that winning at a particular moment, winning a particular hand is not the goal.  The goal is to win in the long run by playing well and understanding that part of the game is that you will lose sometimes.  At limit poker you will lose somewhere between 40 to 45% of the time if you are a very good player.  That is enough to get all the money.  It is also enough losing to mentally unhinge someone who could not emotionally stand to lose…ever.

So I learned to lose at poker.  I learned to let it all go.  I learned to always look toward the long run and only get upset when I played bad, win or lose, and not get upset merely because I booked a loss. That made me a much better poker.  Learning to be less competitive is what allowed me to be a successful poker player, allowed me to maximize the number of hours I played while emotionally steady, under the best circumstances for good decision making.

And I learned to lose in life.  I learned that these principles did not just apply to poker, that allowing people you have relationships with to win is a good thing in the long term. I learned that I don't need to win every argument, I just need to win the ones that are really important to me.  It is okay to let my partner or my friend win an argument about something that they are passionate about, even if I think I am right, if it is for the best health of our long term relationship.  I could never have done that without the lessons I learned through poker.  And I am so thankful for that because my life is so much more complete and happy because of the wonderful friends I have.

Being less competitive is poker's gift to me!

Stop Moaning and Start Thinking
December 20, 2005 05:05 PM - by Annie Duke

A friend of mine told me about a hand that knocked him out of a tournament recently. He had AK against 88. The flop came a King and the guy rivered an 8. My friend bemoaned to me that he lost the tournament to a guy who was over a 20 to 1 underdog. "Wow, that’s really unlucky!" I said. I felt really horrible for my friend who had gotten knocked out on such a long shot. Bad Beat, right?

The problem was that when I saw the tournament on TV it turned out that all the money had gone in before the flop. That means the hand was a race, basically either hand was even money to win. Granted, a King did flop and the guy did hit an 8 on the river. The order the cards fell is certainly painful. It is always hard to have your hopes raised so high only to have them dashed when the river takes the tournament away from you. But the fact is that when the money goes in before the flop it is a 5 card hand. 5 cards are going to hit the board no matter what and the order those cards hit is, frankly, irrelevant.

Why do I bring this up? Does it really matter if my friend wants to say he lost to a 20 to 1 shot instead of an even money shot? Yes, it really does. Critical thinking is one of the most important aspects of being a good player. This includes looking with a critical eye at every session of poker we play and not allowing our emotions to get involved in our evaluation and recounting of the poker we play.

Bemoaning your bad beats is terribly unproductive. Poker has luck involved. That is a plain fact. Sometimes the vagaries of statistics bite you and a big favorite will lose. Your opponent may only have a 5% chance of winning a pot but, guess what? That 5% is going to hit sometimes and sometimes it will be in a crucial situation. I know it is not fun but it happens to all of us. Obsessing about bad luck, and in the case of my friend, recreating history to be worse than it was is counterproductive. Pondering your ill fate takes you out of the game. It makes you feel like a loser. It undermines your confidence. And as a true competitor you need to always play with supreme confidence. You need to feel like a winner at all times.

Rather than focus on bad luck, you should always focus on the play of hands. Perhaps you could have played the hand you lost differently and avoided the bad situation. In the case of my friend, he moved in before the flop. Wouldn’t it be more productive to explore the possibility of a flat call before the flop and a move-in after the flop when the board hit a King? I am not saying that is the right play, but exploring it as a possibility is certainly more productive than just moaning about the loss. The fact is that I probably would have moved in pre-flop as well, in which case you just shrug your shoulders at losing the race. But a flat call certainly would have won the pot so it is worth exploring the option.

You shouldn’t just explore hands you lose either. Sometimes we play hands we win poorly. Sometimes we play them well. Sometimes we play hands we lose poorly. Sometimes we play those well too. Focusing on the win or loss itself is not worth it and will undermine your ability to improve your game. Focusing instead on the play of the hand…well now you have my attention. That is the fastest road to improvement.

As poker players, we all have a tendency to overemphasize skill when we are winning and bad luck when we are losing. Don’t wallow in your bad luck when you are running poorly. Instead, take a good hard look at how you could have played differently. Sometimes you will find you just got unlucky. Other times you will find that you made mistakes that created the bad luck you might otherwise be unproductively wallowing in. Likewise, don’t celebrate your immense skill when you are winning. That is just as bad as wallowing in your bad luck. Take a cold hard look at how much of your good luck streak is a result of your playing really well and how much of it is just things mathematically going your way. So many times you will find that you were playing just as well while losing as while winning but you happened to win all your 50/50 shots on the winning streak while losing them on the losing streak.

Remember poker is a game that requires us all to be honest with ourselves. That kind of honesty is challenging in both our personal lives and our professional lives. But in poker, in particular, the kind of cold-hearted evaluation that eliminates emotional involvement in the outcome is supremely important to our growth as expert players.

Snippet from How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed and Won Millionstop
October 07, 2005 03:55 PM - by Annie Duke

This is an excerpt from Annie’s new book "How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed and Won Millions"

So Here’s the Deal on Poker

I’ve been playing poker professionally for more than a decade, and not a day goes by when I play poker and don’t learn from it, when I don’t add something new to my game, when I don’t see people differently. That’s one of the amazing things about poker, one of the things that keeps people coming back for more – you never say , “Oh, I get it now,” and move on to something else. Every time you sit down at a table, you’re adding to your knowledge of the game. Even bad players offer insight, because there’s no one I’ve ever played with who does everything wrong. Every bad player I know does one thing well, and figuring out which thing that is is an education in itself – and worth it. This is the one game where you eventually use everything you’ve absorbed.

So for those of you who need a guide to the goings-on at a poker tournament, or who just want to bone up on the game, I’ve thrown together a primer, which you’ll find at the back of the book. For novices, I’ve added such poker basics as the ranking of hands, betting fundamentals, and pokerspeak. I’ve also included the rules for Texas Hold ‘em and Omaha HI-Low Split, the games played in the tournaments I describe. If you’re a solid player you can skip this section. But then again, you might bpick up something that will keep you from donking off your money. And I’ve included a Who’s Who style guide to some of the players mentioned in this book – those I faced at the tables and those who were there to support me, and still are.

I’ve always thought that poker is a game that reveals itself as you play it. So that’s how I’ve structured this book. I include tips that relate to what’s happening in my tournament action – the strategy behind my moves and the theory behind that strategy.


Chip Valuetop
October 06, 2005 04:33 PM - by Annie Duke

With the explosion of tournament poker in the past few years, many players are making the transition from cash games to tournament play. Since the prize pools have in many cases decupled, this influx is not that surprising. Like me, the allure of huge money and TV exposure has drawn in many players who used to concentrate on only cash games. It is vital, however, that these players understand that the big prize pools and TV exposure are not the only difference between tournament play and cash games. The math and psychology of the games are also extremely different. Having a deep understanding of where the two types of poker diverge can make all the difference between success and failure in the tournament arena.

The most obvious mathematical difference is that the chips in a tournament have no cash value. This may seem like an obvious point but the consequences of not knowing this fact are often missed by players. When you play in a cash game and you have, say, $50K in chips, your chips are actually worth $50,000. If you have 50 $1K chips each chip is worth $1K. If an opponent has, say, $10K in chips, their chips are worth $10,000. If they have 10 $1K chips, each chip is worth $1K.

Let’s take the same case in a tournament. In order to understand what your chips are worth in a tournament you have to know what the prize pool is. Let’s say the prize pool of a tournament is $1 million. You have 50K in tournament chips comprised of a stack of 50 1K chips. Your opponent has 10K in tournament chips comprised of 10 1K chips. You are both playing for the same $1 million prize pool. So your 50K in chips is vying for the same $1million that your opponent’s 10K in chips is vying for. In the simplest terms each of your chips is worth less than each of your opponent’s chips because your opponent’s 10 chips are playing for the same prize pool as your 50 chips.

Since each of your chips is worth less than each of your opponent’s chips, you need to make mathematical adjustments in your play. For example, it makes more sense to play faster and looser when you have a big stack - not because you have so many chips that you can afford to lose some; but because your chips have a reduced value. Due to the size of your stack, you are actually getting better pot odds every time you play. You are actually calling less than your opponent who has a small stack because each of your chips is actually worth less than each of your opponent’s chips.

Let’s say there is 10K in the pot and you are thinking about calling 5K of your stack on a 2 to 1 shot. Getting only exactly the right odds in a cash game in this situation you would likely fold rather than take a pure gamble. But in a tournament, when you have such a big stack, you need to realize that since each of your chips is worth less than each of the chips in the pot that you are actually getting better than 2 to 1 odds on the call so it is no longer a gamble to make the call. Of course this assumes you won’t have to call any more chips on the turn. That gets more complicated and I don’t want to get too complicated here.

On the flip side, when you have a short stack, it is important to understand that the pot is not always offering you the odds you think it is. When you are short stacked, each of your chips is worth more than the chips in the pot, so you are getting worse pot odds than it appears. This means, of course, that you need to play your hands tighter than you would in a cash game - being much more conservative in calling since you are mathematically getting worse pot odds on the call than you would be in a similar situation in a cash game.

Now obviously, this isn’t the only mathematical difference between tournaments and cash game play but it is one of the most important ones. It is a difference that too few players really understand. Many players do happen upon this strategy—playing looser when you are big stacked and tighter when you are short stacked on your drawing hands—but many don’t understand the mathematical underpinnings that make this strategy a successful one. Having a deep understanding of the conceptual and mathematical reasons behind a successful strategy can only improve your game.

Lessons From the FBItop
May 30, 2005 11:10 AM - by Annie Duke

Let me tell you about the time I met an FBI interrogator named Joe Navarro. Why? Because it was a turning point in my No Limit Hold’em game,

Last March, I was asked to appear on a show called More Than Human on the Discovery Channel. The premise for the episode was to pit human lie detectors against machine lie detectors. They found three people whose living depended on detecting lies; a psychic named Dr. Turri, an FBI interrogator (Joe Navarro) and a poker player (me). The idea was to have all three of us watch the host answer 25 questions. Some answers would be lies and some would be the truth. A comparison was made between how accurately we detected the true answers versus the answers that were lies against the success of three lie detecting machines; a polygraph machine, a machine that detects changes in the voice and a machine that detects pupil dilation.

During the two day taping, I had the pleasure of chatting with Joe and it was extremely enlightening. As a poker player, it is crucial that I be able to accurately detect lies – after all, bluffing is essentially another way of lying. I have learned that there are signs that a person who is bluffing gives. Their face (rapid blinking, pursing of the lips etc.) as well as their body movements (sitting with an aggressive posture, banging their chips in the pot) are all possible signs of a bluffer. I thought I recognized these physical reactions to lying, but Mr. Navarro showed me what a neophyte I was in this department.

FBI interrogators spend their lives questioning suspects. They can spend hours interviewing one person, asking them the same questions over and over again. They can gauge the differences in the way the suspect is acting when they are answering innocuous questions versus highly charged questions. And because these reactions are the cornerstone of the interrogation there is a lot written in FBI journals about what kinds of signs to look for.

Joe Navarro was kind enough to share some the articles he has written for these journals with me. On that day, as I sat and read his articles, my poker game took a jump to the next level.

As I read his articles I started to be able to put names to some of the things I instinctively knew—names like hooding—an extended blink that suspects often display right before they are about tell a lie. I learned that when women are uncomfortable they tend to put their hand to the front of their neck and when men are uncomfortable they put their hands to their chins. Liars tend to grimace right before they tell a lie—they show a slight smile right before they begin to speak. And I learned that people who lie show self-soothing behaviors such as stroking their fingers.

I have since told anyone who asks me for advice that they should find some FBI journals and read articles about interrogation. FBI interrogators need to detect the same thing that poker players do—they need to know with certainty when a suspect is lying and when they are telling the truth. Poker players need to know when an opponent is bluffing and when they have a hand. We essentially have the same jobs.

So how did the humans do in the lie detection test? Well not surprisingly, the psychic performed at less than 50% accuracy. But Joe Navarro and I tied—we both were accurate on 18 of the 25 answers the host gave. And we both beat all but one of the machines.

The clarity that I gained on bluffing that day was essential to my improvement in reading other players. So go find some FBI journals to read and I promise you that your game will skyrocket. The moral of the story? You need to truly digest what interrogators have to say.

Playing the Maniactop
March 21, 2005 08:33 AM - by Annie Duke

Female poker players will find that their opponents often play them differently than the men at the same table. One of the most common types of player that woman will come across is the “maniac.” The maniac can be described as a super aggressive player with a loose style of poker. Men will often fall into this category when playing women, raising and bluffing far too often. The smart female player will have an arsenal of tools in her poker toolbox to maximize profit against a player like this. And, of course, this applies to men as well, since there can be a maniac at any table.

Playing an amped up game is the main characteristic of this type of player. The maniac shows aggression on steroids—he plays very loose poker, raising and bluffing way too much. Clearly, this is generally a non-optimal style of play. But the maniac does have one thing going for him—when he wins a pot it is much bigger than it is supposed to be. Because his style is so aggressive, he creates big pots for himself. Bigger pots are the maniac’s reward for playing so fast and loose.

Many people take the wrong tactic in playing a maniac. They decide that since the maniac is playing so loosely, that they should open up their game against him by not only playing more hands, but playing those hands more aggressively. The theory here is that since the maniac is playing so many hands, that you should lower your hand values yourself. And since the maniac is raising every street, you can raise him back with much weaker holdings because the probability increases significantly that your hand is the best hand against a guy who plays everything. The premise of this is true—if you are facing someone who raises a lot then your weaker holdings go up in valuation against him. And generally in poker when you think you have the best hand, you should raise. Good logic - but wrong execution. All this accomplishes is turning you into a maniac as well.

The problem is that building huge pots for the maniac plays right into his hand. The one important feature of maniac play that allows them to survive is that the pots they win are much bigger than they should be. He creates huge pots so people are much more likely to raise him back—even better yet, cap it with the maniac. So if this is his big advantage, should you be aiding and abetting him? Should you be helping him create huge pots? No.

The way to punish a maniac is to keep his pots small. And the way to do this is to isolate him whenever possible if you think you have the best hand, and then go totally passive. If you are on his left, re-raise the maniac to knock the rest of the field out of the pot. If you are on his right, raise into him knowing he will re-raise and knock out the field. Now you have him isolated.

Now what? If you are in position and the maniac is betting into you after the flop, just call. If you are out of position, just check and call. The reason for this tactic is this: chances are that he is bluffing. If you raise, you will get him to fold and lose all the money he would have continued to bluff off on later streets. Against a maniac you should wait until the river to raise when you think you have the best hand. Never discourage him from bluffing off his money. This is probably the most important aspect of playing the maniac, make sure you allow him to bluff every last penny. This means that the pots you win are bigger than they would be if you were to raise when the maniac had nothing.

But just calling accomplishes another important thing as well. When the maniac does have you beat, he makes not one extra bet from you. While just calling will often make a bigger pot for you by letting the maniac bluff off extra bets, it makes a smaller pot for the maniac by not rewarding him with extra raises. The fact is you will win the majority of pots from the guy because when you enter the pot against him you will almost always start with the best hand against him. By keeping the pots small, you reduce your variance against him—winning lots and lots of normal sized pots, enough of which are much bigger than they should be because you don’t discourage the bluff. And when he does suck out on you, his pot is much smaller than he would like it to be to reap the rewards of his maniacal ways. When he does just plain have you beat, it is the same thing.

If you are always isolating the maniac and then only raising on the river, you will maximize your profits and reduce your variance against those people trying to prove how much they can bully a girl!

Out of Focustop
March 07, 2005 11:34 AM - by Annie Duke

What makes a winning tournament player? There are so many facets to the answer to that question. There is the mathematical facet. A great tournament player needs a complete grasp of probability theory. There is the strategic facet. A great tournament player needs a good grasp of game theory. There is the psychological facet. A great tournament player needs a deep understanding of his opponents' psychology as well as his own. And there is the reading component. A great tournament player must be able to read his opponents, interpreting their every move and body posture to determine their holding.

But none of these things interest me right now. Right now I am thinking about the importance of focus to being a great poker player. And lately, focus is about the only thing on my mind.

Lately the life of a tournament pro has become pretty hectic. There are $10k tournaments just about every other week around the country. This means the regular circuit pro is traveling several times a month across country leaving them tired and very busy; particularly if they have anything else going on in their lives besides poker. But whatever the demands of the road are, the pro has to sit down when they enter a tournament and play a focused game, no matter how road-weary or exhausted they feel.

Imagine adding to the life of the average pro the demands of raising four children under the age of 9. Imagine as well adding to that a full-time consulting position with Now imagine writing a book at the same time. While at Foxwoods Casino recently, I managed to stay very focused during the World Poker Tour event and come in 9th; a result I was extremely happy with. But when I got back home to Portland I wanted to stay; and I wanted to stay badly. I really love the Christmas season and wanted to hang out by my Christmas tree cuddling with the four people who make my life completely fulfilled and worthwhile: my four children.

But duty called and I showed up at the 5 Diamond Poker Classic at the Bellagio on the 14th to play in their $15k championship event. I was just getting over a cold. I was missing my kids. I was missing my Christmas tree and frankly, I was tired of traveling. I wanted to be home and when I sat down that first day of the tournament, I played just like you would expect of someone who wanted to be at home with her four children. I made sure I was going to get there as soon as possible by playing the most unfocussed poker of my life.

When I got knocked out at the end of the first day I was not as disappointed as I would normally be under those circumstances. I was happy. Happy I would be getting home early. I called my kids that night and excitedly told them I would be back home the next day. Now, if my reaction was one of elation at being knocked out of a $15k tournament, I should never have played. Because if that was my reaction there was no possibility I was going to play anything other than terrible poker.

Now mind you, I am not making an excuse for bad play here. It is my own fault that I even bothered to enter that event. You see, I knew I was feeling like that before I even plunked down my $15k. I told all my friends that I was tired . . . that I wanted to be home with my kids . . .that I was excited about Christmas. And frankly if that was the way I was feeling, I should never have entered.

But having made the mistake of entering, I had no business playing so poorly and unfocused. Part of being a true professional is to overcome issues like these. To put out of your mind whatever it is that is stealing your focus and just hunker down and get yourself together and play the best poker you know how to play.

So I am spending the rest of December and a good part of January sitting at home figuring out what went wrong at the Bellagio. Why I was unable to focus when I got to the table. And perhaps more importantly, questioning why I even entered in the first place. The fact of the matter is that I knew I was not going to play well. In a case like this, it was an important lesson to learn that I don't have to enter every single big dollar tournament.

Poker teaches a lot of life lessons. It is one of the things I love most about the game that I have chosen for a living. And I learned an important lesson at the Bellagio. Sometimes it is good to be a little less driven and listen to what your psyche is telling you. If you feel you need a break, take one. It can only improve your game if you allow yourself a little mental vacation. It can only improve your life if you sit and listen to what that inner voice is telling you. I know I would have saved $15k if I had listened to what I was saying to my friends on December 14th and taken a tournament off.

God Bless Mentop
August 24, 2004 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

God Bless Men

As a woman playing this great game of poker you have a distinct advantage over your male counterparts. You might think it is your clearly superior brain. You might think it is your ability to multi-task. You might think it is your more intuitive nature. Yes, all those are qualities that women excel at but, no, that is not what I am thinking of. I am thinking of the mere fact of you being a woman.

What on earth could I mean by "the mere fact of being a woman?" Well there is an interesting thing that happens when you put a woman at a poker table-and all you men out there should be paying close attention to this: Some men become unhinged-they forget they are playing a ruthless game in which emotion should be separated from strategy-they forget that the gender of your opponent should make no difference in how you play the game. And that is a good thing for all us girls.

So for your poker pleasure, here are two types of men you might encounter at the table and the ways to profit from them:

1) The Flirter: Yes, you will meet a lot of flirters at the table. These are men who can't get past the fact that when confronted with a woman they begin to think with the wrong part of their body. They see you a girl rather than an opponent. They see you as a conquest. They see you having cocktails with them.

Profit from these guys-and I don't mean go out on a date with them (umless you want to). If and only if you are comfortable with it you should flirt right back at them. Engage them. Let them think they have a chance with you. Let them think that flirting with them is the most fun you have had at a poker table in years.

What will this get you? Bets saved. These guys don't want to take your money. They want to take you on a date. So they will often not raise you when they should. They will not put the kind of pressure on you they should. They won't bluff as often as they should. And sometimes they will go so far as to out and out tell you when you are beat. Oh, the number of times in my early career that I had a guy say, "Honey, don't call, I have a flush." And then show me his cards.

All those bets you save by being friendly with your flirter are money earned. And money earned-well, now, isn't that the whole goal of poker?

2) The Angry Chauvinist: Poker is a boys' game, right? Men go to their Wednesday Night game to escape the old lady, right? Well, I certainly don't think so but there are men out there that do and when confronted with "the old lady" at the poker table these kinds of men get bent out of shape. They are offended by your mere presence at the table. I mean, how dare a women invade their male sanctuary and have the audacity to sit down at the table and ruin their good time?

You can really profit of this type. They are angry that you are there. If you are comfortable with it, antagonize them. Giggle girlishly when you win pots. Check raise them at every opportunity. Show them your bluffs. The mere fact that you are there already pisses them off, so piss them off more.

What will this get you? Extra bets. Men like this don't want a girl to beat them. They want to show you who's boss. They will bluff you too often. The will call you too often. So play value poker against these guys. Run the nuts into them. They will be calling stations against you. Make sure you call them down more often than another opponent since, make no mistake, these guys are trying to bluff you much more than they should be.

All those extra bets, those extra bluffs that you call down, the extra bets that they pay off on the river because they don't want to lose to a chick, those extra bets are money earned. And, again, well isn't that the whole goal of poker?

Now, all this being said, be aware that you will find fewer men who fall into these traps as you move up in limits. As the limits get higher, you encounter more and more pros and the pros tend to have more control over these aspects of their personalities. But although there are fewer of them, you still will find men like this at any limit you play.

I hope for the men out there that you have taken notes and that this will improve your game as much as it improves the games of the women out there reading this.

First Big Bellagio Win (long)top
April 09, 2004 04:34 PM - by Annie Duke

On Monday the April 5th I entered the $2500 buy-in Limit Hold'em Tournament at the Bellagio. My brother, Howard Lederer, had just won the first event--the $2500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em. He won on Sunday night which was really exciting since he had won the same event the year before!

On Monday I entered the tournament with my plane scheduled for 8 am the next morning to head back to Portland. Of course, if I made the final table I would have to reschedule since that would start at 3 pm the next day. Throughout the day Jack McClelland kept joking with me that I would be missing my plane.

I started with a very bad table--there were a lot of really excellent limit hold'em and tournament players including Todd Brunson, Thor Hansen, David Chiu and Allen Cunningham--all truly great players. Very early on I got knocked down from my 5K starting chips to 900! On the hand before the first break I was in the big blind with my 900 in chips and looked down at AA! What incredible luck! I tripled up right then and when I got back from the break I never looked back.

By the time dinner break came around at 9pm I had 45K in chips. Average stack at that point was about 20K. I was feeling pretty good with about 45 players left. I was even thinking maybe I would be missing that flight afterall.

When I got back from dinner I got extemely lucky on a hand. A guy in late position raised and I called in the blind with KJo. The board came JTX and I check raised. A blank hit on the turn and I bet out. He raised me and I called. The river was a K giving me top two pair. I bet out and he called. I really needed that King as I was against AJ! I was in terrible shape with one card to come. Boy did I get lucky!

That got me to over 60K in chips. When we broke down to two tables I lost a very strange hand. A maniac kind of guy raised in late position with A4. I looked down at AQ and reraised. Then he raised me back! Needless to say he hit a four and won the hand. I was very surprised by the four bet out of position. But maybe that was my pay back for hitting the King on the river when I needed three outs.

When we made it down to 10 players we redrew to one table. I was down to about 40K again when we redrew. I bluffed a huge pot against a very tight player with 8 high and then hit a couple of hands and we were down to the final table. I had 98K in chips and felt pretty good about my 4th place position since all three of the big stacks were directly to my right. I also felt that it was a relatively inexperienced final table which I knew would work to my advantage.

Needless to say, I missed my 8 am flight and slept till 2:15 pm. I was really well rested when I came down to play--feeling really good about my chances. I immediately lost a unlucky hand though. The player in the 1 seat raised and a loose, aggressive player reraised. I looked at QQ in the small blind and called. The player in the 1 seat called as well.

The board came J76. What a great flop for QQ! Except the only problem was I was against 77 and JJ! Both players had flopped sets. Luckily it came two bets to me on the flop and I figured out I was beat right there. But that hand still knocked me down to 30K.

The players to my right were, thankfully, very tight so I was able to build my stack back up to around 100K without ever really showing a hand. And then I had a very lucky hand go my way. I raised before the flop with A6. The player in the big blind called. He was the big stack. The flop came K76 one club. He bet and I raised and he reraised! I called. The turn was the Jack of clubs giving me a flush draw. He bet. I knew I wasn't folding so I decided to semi-bluff here and raise to put pressure on top pair. He called quickly and i knew I was going to have to hit my hand to win. Luckily a 5 of clubs hit the river giving me the nut flush! He checked, I bet, and he called and I won the pot. He was none to happy to say the least.

Although I definitely got lucky on the hand I am still happy with how I played it. My raise on the turn makes it very hard for top pair to call there as I am representing a huge hand. It just turned out that I was against a stubborn top pair and had to hit. Luckily I did!

After that I was chip leader. We got down to 5 handed and I knocked two players out back to back. The first I had QQ vs AQ and knocked out the 2 seat. The second was a stranger hand. I was in the big blind with Q9o. I raised and the BB reraised me. I called. The board came 863. I checked and he bet his last 3 chips. I called thinking that I was losing this hand for sure but had to call despite losing since it was still mathematically correct. But he turned over JT! My queen-high held up and we were down to three players. I was by far the chip leader at this point.

By the time I got head up with Daniel Quach I had a massive chip lead--something like 700K to his 100K. He battled back though when he raised my big blind and I called with A6o. The flop came AQX and 7 on the turn. Daniel had Q7 for two pair and I didn't improve on the river. I knocked him back down below 200K again without really having to turn too many hands over. But then the following hand happened:

I raised with J8 on the button. Daniel called. The board came 233 two hearts. He checked, I bet, he raised, I reraised and he called. The turn was the 5. He checked, I bet and he raised. I flat called worried now that he might have a full house to my flush. The river brough another 5. He bet and I called. He showed the 54! That was a tough beat to mentally recover from. I have come in second in a lot of tournaments taking beats like that so I really had to keep myself together and buckle down. He had the slight chip lead at that point.

A few hands later I raised with the Q9o on the button and he called in the big blind. The board came AT6. He checked, I bet and he raised. I had noticed that he was playing the flop fast a lot when he was bluffing so I called planning to take it away on the turn. The turn brought an 8 which was a really nice card for me as I now had a gut shot straight draw which gave me outs if my bluff did not work. He bet as I expected he would, I raised, and he folded! My plan worked! That was a very big pot and really swung the momentum back in my direction.

After that I had the rush of my life. Four times in a row that I was in the big blind Daniel raised and I had AQ. I reraised each time and each time flopped top pair. After that rush he was down below 100K again. He raised his button again and I reraised in the big blind with AT suited. He called. The board came AQT all spades. I bet and he called. The turn was a 7 and he went all in. He had T7 for bottom two. My top two pair help up and I won the tournament.

I immediately jumped into my brother's arms. Howard had been sweating me the whole time and it made it all the sweeter that my big brother and mentor was there to watch my big win. It was very emotional for me. I went back and shook Daniel's hand, gave him a hug, hugged everyone around me and collected my bracelet and my $157K!

It was a great day. Good thing I missed my flight that morning!

Fun With HBOtop
April 01, 2004 11:35 AM - by Annie Duke

I was in Las Vegas the weekend of the 19th to help HBO promote their new show Deadwood. The show is set in the Old West in Deadwood, SD. In order to help promote the show HBO teamed up with the World Poker Tour and 6 lucky winners were flown to Las Vegas to play a 6 person tournament where the winner got an entry in the $25K World Poker Tour Championship event.

Of course, the problem was that the winners had varied levels of poker knowledge. One of them had never even played a hand of poker before! That is where I came in. World Poker Tour and HBO asked me to come give the 6 winners a 2 hour seminar on
No Limit Texas Hold'em.

So Saturday at 10 am I met all the nice folks from HBO and Tony Bruno and sat down with the 6 winners and taught them the game. I had a great time! The only problem was that the event conflicted with the Annie Duke freeroll on so I missed my own tournament! I felt so bad that I re-ran it on the next Tuesday night -- that one I managed to attend!

So check out
Deadwood on HBO. It is a pretty good show!

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of Connecting Low Cardstop
December 19, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

Another big mistake players make is overestimating the strength of connecting low cards that contain no ace. A hand like 2 3 4 5 might look very strong because of all the wheel possibilities but in reality it is not at all strong. Your flush feature is only 5-high. In order to flop the nut low or the wheel wrap you need an Ace to fall. And as I've said above it is never a good idea to wholly rely on exactly one card to fall when the flop hits. When your hand contains an A2 it is very easy to flop the nut low draw. Without that all-important ace you are most likely to flop the third best low draw when the low draw hits. For example, when any two low cards 3 and higher hit (34, 35, 36, 37or 38) A2 and A4 or A5 will be drawing better than you. You can only have the third best draw by definition and it is never a good idea to chase a draw when you can only make third best.

When you make a straight with this hand, your best high feature, unless it is exactly a wheel, it will generally not be the nut straight. So if the board is 456KQ you have the bottom straight and the third nut low. You will have to pay it off because your hand could win both ways will but you will often be scooped, particularly if the pot is multi-way. So the negative implied odds of this hand are substantial. It is important in Omaha 8/b to always consider the probability that your hand can make the nuts. Unlike in hold'em where one pair is the most likely hand to win a pot in Omaha 8/b the nuts is the most likely hand to win. So it is important to try to always put yourself in the position where that is what you are drawing for.

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of AAtop
December 19, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

Perhaps because the best hand in Omaha 8/b is AA23 double suited most players greatly overestimate the value of having AA in their hand. AA can make top set but Aces also play for low meaning that you are guaranteeing one piece to a low board when you flop a set. Because of this the aces have some of the same drawbacks as deuces through eights. Of course, being able to flop top set mitigates these drawbacks, but this still needs to be taken into account. Because of this, when you play AA you need to have some other feature to your hand-suited cards, other connecting low cards (AA34) or connecting high cards (AAKQ). A A 7 8 is actually a hand that you can throw away from early position and you should never call a raise with unless you are in the big blind. With this hand you have no good low features and no suits. The only feature is AA so really you are either hoping that your one pair will stand up, which rarely happens in Omaha 8/b, or that you will flop a set, which is a) less likely to stand up in Omaha 8/b than hold'em and b) increasing the likelihood that you are only gunning for half the pot by putting an Ace out there.

Unless you are raising out of steal position, limping in in the small blind or playing out of the big blind you should never play this hand.

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of A2top
December 19, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

Speaking of A2, although you can always play a hand containing these cards don't overestimate the value of having them in your hand. Remember that everyone plays A2 and it happens quite often that when you have these two cards someone else does too, leaving you drawing at a half of the low side of the pot. So if A2 is the only feature to your hand, remember to always play with some caution. A 2 9 6 is a hand like this. Limping in rather than raising would probably be the preferred play with a hand like this-waiting to see what hits the board. You have no strong high features to the hand and your back up low features (if an A or a 2 hits the board) are quite weak by virtue of containing a 6. This hand is weak enough that I would not call a double raise from an early position player with this hand, despite the A2 feature. It is too likely that either the first or second raiser or both also has the A2 feature and you have nothing else really working in the hand.

In reality, I would much rather have a hand like A 3 4 5 than A296 no suits. With the first hand you have two suits, one to the Ace and 4 wheel cards. Even if a deuce doesn't hit the board you still have a good chance at the low side. You have lots of straight and wheel possibilities in the hand and all your back up lows are strong. Therefore this hand is much stronger than a hand that just contains a stranded A2.

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Overestimating the Value of Baby Pairstop
December 19, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

One of the biggest mistakes many players make is overestimating the value of their small pairs. Small pairs (22 thru 88) really don't have a lot of value in Omaha 8/b. This is for two main reasons. First, when you flop a set the likelihood of there being an overset is greatly increased by the mere fact that your opponents have four cards in their hand instead of two. Set under set is always a situation to be avoided. Second, and more importantly, is the fact that when you flop a set you are putting one piece to a low on the board. By this I mean that, by definition, if you flop a set of deuces thru eights there is necessarily at least one low card on the board. Why is this so bad? Because it greatly increases the likely the board will qualify for low and that you will be getting half of the pot only. Necessarily, if you get half of the pot instead of the whole pot you are reducing the odds the pot is laying you by half. Compare this situation to flopping a set of nines thru Kings. Then just the opposite happens: you are removing a spot for a low card to hit, thus increasing the likelihood that no low will qualify. This is why high pairs are so much more powerful than baby pairs.

Because of this difference between high and low pairs, low pairs actually weaken your hand rather than strengthen it. Even if your cards are strongly related to the pair, you cannot play. So hands like 8 8 7 6 are completely unplayable. This is despite having lots of straight possibilities, a possible set and two possible flushes. When you make a straight there is almost always a low qualified (e.g. the board is 456). When you make a flush it is never the nut flush. And when you flop a set there is a likely low available and it is rarely the top set. This is a hand you could fold in the big blind to a raise. You would certainly fold it in the small blind.

To play a small pair, the other two cards must have very strong low features and you must realize that the addition of the pair only marginally improves the quality of your hand. As an example, A 3 3 6 is playable because of the strong low features (A36) with the pair. Also, you have an ace high suit. But it is important to understand that this hand is not much better than having just A 3 6 with no fourth card! In contrast A 4 4 9 is only marginally playable because the low feature A4, is very weak. The 9 is totally unrelated. The only thing really going for this hand is the Ace-high suit. Because of this, this is a hand you can call a raise with in the big blind. You can call a raise out of the small blind if the raise has come from a steal position. You can limp in late or in the small blind. And you can raise from late when no one has entered in front of you. But you should not otherwise enter the pot.

Hands like 2 2 3 4 and 6 6 2 3 are even worse than the above example. Even though you have lots of low cards working, you will only flop the nut low draw when an Ace hits and it is never a good idea to be relying on exactly one card to hit the board. When you make flushes with these hands they are never the nuts, unlike with the A 4 4 9 example. Your sets will always be weak and when you hit them there is a likelihood of a low qualifying. These are hands with huge negative implied odds. You will often end up chasing half the pot with the second best hand and just paying off to the nuts, as when the board is 4 5 K 7 Q. Even with the 2 2 3 4 you still only have the third best low (A2 and A3 beat you) and you have very far from the nut flush. You will often be scooped in this pot yet you really have to pay it off even so because you hand is a two-way hand-it could be best for high or low. Therefore, these hands should only be played from steal position or in the big blind. You should never call a raise with these hands unless you are in the big blind. This is particularly important since hands that raise in Omaha 8/b almost always contain an Ace and this, by definition, takes away one of the four aces you desperately need to flop!

Hands with small pairs and very weak low features are always unplayable unless you are in the blind or in steal position. So 8 8 A 5 is absolutely terrible. You have no suit, a small pair and a terrible low possibility. 6 6 5 A is similarly bad even with the ace-high suit. Don't be fooled into playing these hands just because you have two wheel cards or an Ace high flush possibility. You are essentially playing with only two useful cards in your hand, which is almost never a good idea unless you have exactly A2.

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Playing Stranded Big Pairstop
December 19, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

One of the key issues in Omaha 8/b is that you always want to have more than two cards working. In fact, the only hand you could justify playing out of any position where you only know two of your cards would be one that contains A2. When your hand is not playing at all for low this becomes more important. When you are playing a hand with only high features all four of your cards need to be working. What I mean by this is that all four of your cards have to be related to each other in some way.

If you are playing big pairs (by this I mean any pair 99 and above) the other two cards need to be strongly related to the pair. So, K K T 3 is a completely unplayable hand. You have exactly two kings, a hanging three unrelated to any of the other cards and no suited cards that would give you a flush feature. The only flop you would truly be happy with is one that gives you Kings full. This is a hand that if you were raised in the big blind you could throw it away. Certainly you would never call a raise with this hand in the small blind.

As a contrast consider K K 2 3. This is an incredibly powerful hand, one that you could play out of any position at the table. You have two suits, spades and diamonds, you have a big pair, kings, and you have two relatively strong low cards, 23. You are playing for high and low and have multiple high features to your hand. Plus, when an ace hits the board, you will often still have the nut low draw (as in a board of A 4 T) and you might often have the nut flush draw also (A T 4). You can flop many powerful hands with this and it is a hand that is easy to get away from. If the board is 2 5 6 for example you have an easy fold.

As another contrast, consider hands like Q Q J T and J T T 9. Again these two hands are eminently playable because all four of your cards are strongly related. Further, when you make your hand you will almost always be getting the whole pot as flopping these hands well generally means high cards will hit the board. You have lots of straight possibilities. It is easy to flop a high wrap-a very powerful Omaha hand. If the board hits with a 98K, for example, and you have QQJT you can make a straight with a 7, T, J or Q. This is called a total wrap, when any of four possible cards makes your straight. Further, when you make your hand with the Q this also gives you a set so that when the board pairs you still have a very powerful hand.

So big pairs can be very powerful starting hands but only if you have two strongly related other cards in your hand as well.

Q & A With Annie Duketop
December 18, 2003 04:17 PM - by Annie Duke

If you consistently fold bad cards how do you keep everybody from dropping when you get better cards? If you check all the time you don't make money!

I gather you are asking how you can get action on the hands you play when you play a very tight game, not playing very many starting hands. My answer is that you don't need to do anything special to generate action until you get to very high limit games. People generally play their own cards when they play poker and most players don't notice a thing about how anyone else is playing at the table. I am often very surprised when I get four-way action after not having played a pot in what seems like hours.

Most players look for any excuse to play. They don't notice that you are a tight player. Just play your good starting hands and you will get plenty of action. Don't worry about disguising your play.

After a night's winnings what percentage of the winnings are you supposed to put in to your bankroll?

Well, this is a very difficult question to answer as it completely depends on what your goals are. If you have an adequate bankroll for the limit you are playing then you can pretty much pocket any winnings you might make for the night. For example, if you are playing $3/6 and you have a bankroll of around $1,800-$3,000 than I would say have at your winnings. A bankroll within this range is totally adequate for a winning player and there would be no need to roll winnings back into you bankroll.

However, if your goal is to move up in limit then you would want to start supplementing in order to build your bankroll. Obviously, the faster you build your bankroll, the more money you stash each night, the faster you will get to that higher limit. It behooves you to stash as high a percentage as you can and still afford your daily lifestyle as the reason you would want to move up, presumably, is that you feel you can make more money per hour at the higher limit. So, to take our $3/6 example, if you wanted to move to $6/12 you would need to double your bankroll. The faster you can do this the better so only pocket as much of your winnings as you need to cover your nut in daily life.

If a winning player earns one big bet per hour in hold'em, common sense says s/he should have around 300 big bets for a comfortable bankroll. If this same player plays heads-up, what should his big bet bankroll be? Also, what would you say is a reasonable hourly rate?

This is a very interesting question with no easy answer as it completely depends on how good you are at heads-up play. Generally you need a larger bankroll to play heads-up, as it can be much "swingy-er." A 10-20 heads-up game generally plays much bigger than a 10-20 ring game. So I would say you'd need at least twice the bankroll to withstand the swings. You should expect to make 2 big bets per hour if you are a decent heads-up player so you get the extra earnings for the extra bankroll. However, if you are a truly excellent heads-up player you actually need a smaller bankroll. This is because of the nature of heads-up play -- you get to make many, many more decisions each hour of play so your edge is much greater if you are truly skilled at this type of play. An excellent heads up player is rarely going to have a losing hour because of all the opportunities he has to make good decisions and all the opportunities his opponent has to make bad ones. Because of this, a truly great heads up player actually needs a smaller bankroll than he would need to play a ring game. But there are few truly great heads-up players, I mean people capable of earning upwards of 4 big bets per hour. So for your average Joe who is a winning heads-up player I would say look for 2 bets per hour and try to double your bankroll as the swings will be bigger.

Movin' on Uptop
December 18, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

One of the most important skills in becoming a great professional poker player is money management. In fact, money management is, in some ways, much more important than talent. I have seen many good poker players go broke because of poor money management skills: playing too high for their bankroll, playing in the pit, or jumping into games that are too high for the game they regularly play.

It is obvious why the first two are examples of poor money management skills. If you only have a bankroll of $1000 then playing $20/$40 is a terrible idea as you can go broke in one play. Taking your poker bankroll and playing pit games such as craps where skill does not count is obviously poor money management. But what do I mean by the last example. Shouldn't you sometimes jump into a game that is higher than you generally play if the game is great? No!

Let's say you generally play between $10/$20 and $15/$30 hold'em. You walk into the poker room one day, or log onto the computer, and you see a fantastic $30/$60 game with a big $15/$30 sucker in it. What is going to happen to your bankroll if you play in this game? Let's consider the downside.

If you play in this game, it is twice as big as the highest game you generally play in. This means you'll make twice as much, right? Wrong. The pros playing in the game are going to be much better than you; after all they consistently beat a game twice as big as you play in. Consider how bad the suckers have to be in order to outweigh the fact that you are playing with pros who frankly play on a different level than you do. What often happens is that even though you can pound on the suckers in the game, you become merely a holding station for the suckers' money on its way to the better pros in the game. So if you want to take a shot at a big game you had better consider how much more skilled than you the pros sitting at the table are.

It all comes down to simple risk versus reward. If you are a great $15/$30 player maybe you are beating the game for a full big bet an hour, $30. If you jump up to take a shot at what looks like juicy a $30/$60 game what happens to your earn vs. variance? With the significantly better pros in the game, combined with the fact that you may be playing out of your comfort level, you may now only be taking ½ a big bet an hour out of the game, or $30. That's the same $30/hour you were taking out of the $15/$30 game with twice the risk! You are earning the same amount per hour but having to fade the variance of a $30/$60 game rather than a $15/$30. In fact the risk is probably more than double as a juicy game is generally wilder; and the wilder the game, the higher the variance. If you are only moving up when the game is really juicy then you are specifically choosing to jump up in high variance situations. So even if you did increase your earn to say ¾ of a big bet per hour, or $45, you are still having to endure significantly larger fluctuations in your bankroll, fluctuations your $15/$30 bankroll may not be able to endure.

I know you are thinking that if the game is good enough maybe you could take out a full big bet an hour and double your earnings. Then you should certainly jump up, right? I still say no. For there is still the simple fact that, in the short term, luck is very powerful in poker and on any given day the best player in the game might be the biggest loser of the day if luck isn't with him. If you want to take a shot at a game you had better make sure that game goes more than every once in a while. Otherwise, a bad day in the game, no matter how good the game, could ruin your whole month. If you jump into a big game and have bad luck it could wipe out all the hard work you have done in the smaller game in one fell swoop. That's right, poof! Your profits for a month of hard work are gone because you jumped into a wild, albeit great, game double the size of the game you generally play.

So consider the risk when you see that juicy game. It might not be as juicy for your bankroll as it looks!

The 30-bet Ruletop
December 18, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

When I first started playing poker, my big brother gave me a great piece of advice. He told me to never lose more than 30 big bets in a game, give or take. That means I shouldn't lose more than $180 in a $3-$6 game, $600 in a $10-$20 game and so on. What a great piece of advice that was, one of the most important he ever gave me for money management, so I'm going to pass it on to you here: "Don't ever go off for more than 30 big bets in a poker game!"

When you are first starting out as a poker player it is very difficult to judge whether you are a good player or a bad one. Until you have a lot of experience and table hours under your belt there is no way for you to effectively judge your skill level. More importantly, until you have played a lot of hours it is difficult for you to judge your level of skill compared to the other players at your table. One thing the 30 bet rule does for you is limit your losses in games where you might be the sucker. Until you are able to accurately judge how you play compared to others in your game, loss limiting with the 30 bet rule effectively stops you from dumping off large sums of money in games you may not be able to beat. This is always a good strategy for bankroll health!

Even if you have enough experience and table hours to judge whether you are good, better or worse than the game you have chosen, loss limiting is still a good strategy. When we are losing it is difficult to accurately judge exactly how much losing affects our play. Even great champions will often be in a game they could generally beat soundly but because they are losing. They become a dog to the game and don't realize it. When you are losing, your table image erodes and table image is very important to how much money you can take out of a game. Other players are also more likely to play hands strong and fast against you, bluff at you and generally will be more likely to run you down which will take away your ability to bluff. All of this really eats into your earnings.

Not only will your table image erode when you are losing but your skills will erode as well! As you go into the mindset of wanting to reduce your loss on losing hands you will play hands softer than called for, back off hands, and won't raise when appropriate. And we all know that passive play is a recipe for losing play. Losing generally makes us all more passive. Yet, there are those of us who steam... we chase hands we would normally fold or play hands we would normally never get involved in and the like. Steaming is another recipe for losing.

By limiting your losses to 30 big bets, you are effectively minimizing the time you spend playing with a poor table image, playing passively, or steaming at the table and maximizing the amount of time you spend playing your A-game. If you don't go beyond 30 big bets, you won't dump off large sums when you are playing poorly or are in a bad game and might not be able to soundly assess your circumstances. Loss limiting acts as an objective stop-gap.

So always listen to big brother... keep your losses small!

Omaha Eight-or-Better: Underestimating the Value of Connecting High Cardstop
December 18, 2003 12:00 AM - by Annie Duke

The final mistake I will discuss is the underestimation of the value of connecting high cards. Many players think that hands like K Q J T are quite weak when, in fact, they are quite strong. This is due several factors. First, when you flop this hand well there is almost never a possibility of a low being available. Hands that kill the low are always more valuable because when you win with the hand you will win the whole pot. The strongest hands in Omaha 8/b are hands that have scooping potential. There are two types of scooping hands: ones that have two way potential like AA23 and ones that have only high potential like AAKQ. Hands that have only high potential are, for this reason, strong.

The second factor that makes high straight cards so valuable is that it is a hand that you rarely get trapped with. Either you flop the hand well (as when the board comes T93, QQ9, or AQT for example) or you flop it very poorly (23Q, 578, K52 for example). Unlike with low straight cards where you can have the idiot end of the straight with a bad low that you have to pay off with high straight cards you either flop the nut draw or you don't. There is really just no gray area with hands like these-as long as you are capable of throwing away your one pair flops when there are dangerous low cards out there. Because there is no gray area these hands are very easy to get away from on the flop. And since you will almost exclusively be gunning for the whole pot when you make these hands, thus scooping, these hands are very valuable and can be played from any position for a raise-particularly when you have suited features with them.

I hope that these mistakes have given you something to think about. The main lesson about hand selection in Omaha eight-or-better you should take away with you is that the fact that everyone gets four hole cards means that you have to be pickier about what you play. It is much more important than in any other game that has no wild cards that your hand be one that can easily make the nuts. The strength of the winning hand as compared to stud or hold'em in always much greater. In stud two pair will generally win the pot. In hold'em one pair will generally win. In Omaha 8/b both these hands will generally lose. Because your opponents have four cards the strength of the winning hand is greatly increased so you, as a player, need to play hands that are likely to make the nuts when you make your hand. If you always keep this in mind you will be well on your way to becoming a winning Omaha 8/b player.

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