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Old 07-12-2017, 10:48 AM   #1
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Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Not sure if this is the right place to post but I'm looking for some guidance to becoming a better live 1/2 cash player.

I know it takes a lot of time and hands and homework to become good. But I don't visit the casino that often (4 times a year)

Any bullet points or "top 10 things" I can do to improve my game from fish who usually gets felted to "kind of competent"? (I'm raising the bar real high)
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Old 07-12-2017, 11:58 AM   #2
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Originally Posted by noak View Post
Not sure if this is the right place to post but I'm looking for some guidance to becoming a better live 1/2 cash player.

I know it takes a lot of time and hands and homework to become good. But I don't visit the casino that often (4 times a year)

Any bullet points or "top 10 things" I can do to improve my game from fish who usually gets felted to "kind of competent"? (I'm raising the bar real high)
1) Open your mind. Remove your ego from every single situation and approach it logically. If you were wrong, accept it and learn why. If you were right, learn why when it doesn't apply. If you can't do this, you won't be successful in the long term.

2) Read and read and read. Understand that the wisest person knows they know nothing - This means that rules and habits you have learned may need to be relearned. Learn Theory.

3) Focus on one discipline at a time. Don't play both Tournaments and Cash games and expect experience for one to translate to another. Don't play both NL and FL at the same time. Instead focus on one discipline at a time and don't get mixed up.

4) Practice, Practice, Practice. There is zero substitute for putting theory into action. You can read everything in the world, but if you can't apply that information it is about as useless as jpeg to Hellen Keller. Nuff Said.

5) Know yourself, know your game, and know how you react. Know the difference between playing badly and a bad run of cards. Know what puts you on tilt and learn to deal and adapt to those situations. Know what you are good at and what you are bad at, and make adjustments. Don't play games you are weak at until you feel comfortable playing them.

6) Talk about poker. Friends, online boards, chat rooms, Discord, whatever. Talk about hands, situations, styles, and games. Be devils Advocate and examine the flip side as to WHY someone would make a move as opposed to WHY NOT.

7) Expose your play and be able to take criticism. Listen to others and reflect upon their advice. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong, but they always have information that you may find useful. Nuggets of wisdom can be found anywhere.

8) Take care of your body. Get plenty of sleep, eat right, exercise, and take breaks when you need to. Your mind makes you money, but your body is the temple in which your mind resides. If you don't take care of yourself, your game will suffer.

9) Take care of your personal life. Poker is a game, not life. Take breaks. Enjoy life. Enjoy love, excitement, adventure, romance, chase dreams, and above all live a full and fulfilling life. Poker may make you money, but if all you do is play poker you will never ever be happy.

10) There is no such thing as an absolute in poker - Every hand, every situation, every possible question always has one answer - "It depends". Poker is situational and what you would do in one hand isn't what you would do in another. Know that you know nothing, and that true poker is about making the BEST decision possible.

Good Luck.
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Old 07-12-2017, 12:30 PM   #3
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

COTMs posted in the low stakes NL forum:
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Old 07-12-2017, 01:21 PM   #4
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Originally Posted by noak View Post
Any bullet points or "top 10 things" I can do to improve my game from fish who usually gets felted to "kind of competent"? (I'm raising the bar real high)
#1 for almost all players is that you should play less hands.
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Old 07-13-2017, 04:00 AM   #5
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

I recommend reading "The Course" by Ed Miller and also "Essential Poker Math" by Alton Hardin. These two books would be extremely helpful in transforming a recreational player into a modestly winning player.

I'm assuming you're playing live 1/2 or similar. Here's my 10 tips. They won't be enough to turn you from a losing player to a winning player but should help anyway.

1) Past events do not influence future events. This is the "gambler's fallacy". Some people think if they're running good they can start playing garbage hands because they're on fire. Others think the opposite--their luck is going to change any moment. Card outcomes are random. It does not matter if you folded 72o and the flop is 772. You were correct to fold 72o and must move on.

2) You probably play too many hands pre-flop. You should be playing at most 20% of hands and probably less to start. And this is on average, not in every position. You can play more like 30-40% on the button but in early position you want to be really tight, maybe play 10%.

3) Learn the importance of position. You want to be last to act as much as possible. In multiway pots, you want to be as close as possible to last to act. In practice this means you should play relatively more hands from the cutoff and especially the button, and very few in earlier positions. Being last to act gives you a huge information advantage. If you're heads up and you're in position and your opponent checks, you can often win the pot bluffing. If you're first to act heads up and you check, your opponent may bet and you don't know if he has a hand or is just betting because you checked. You're basically playing half-blind out of position so you either need a large skill advantage or a large hand strength advantage to continue. This is why you should only raise premium hands in early positions, but you can raise more on the button. It would be a mistake to raise KTo UTG, but on the BTN raising KTo is fine if no one has raised before you.

4) Learn the importance of relative position. Relative position is where you are in relation to the other players. You want loose aggressive players on your right, and tight passive players on your left. The reason is because of 3). With loose aggressive players to your right, you will frequently have position on them, which is more important against aggressive players than tight or passive players. Also, having tight and passive players to your left means when you're out of position to them, they're more likely to play straightforwardly than the loose aggressive players. And pre-flop, you can sometimes steal the blinds from these players.

5) Stop limping outside of the blinds. Some good players limp at times, but it's difficult to do correctly. You can't make much of a mistake by raising every hand you play, assuming you're only playing the best 15% or so of hands.

6) Don't think in terms of your opponents' specific hands. Don't try to put someone on just AK for instance. Think about the range of hands your opponent could have pre-flop depending whether he raised, limped, or called. A typical early position raising range might look like {77+,AJ+, KQ, ATs+} for instance. Then when the flop comes QT8 rainbow, and the preflop raiser bets, think about what he could now have. He could just be continuation betting, but if he has a hand, it is likely {AQ, KQ, AT, TT+, 88}. This board hits his range pretty strong so you should probably fold if you missed. But notice there are hands he could have that still largely missed like AK, AJ, and 99. But even these hands have gutshot straight draws. Only 77 whiffed completely.

7) Learn basic hand combos. Not all good players do, but if you learn this it will give you a big advantage. You don't need to know advanced combinatorics, so I'll just list a few things. Unpaired hands -- there are 16 ways to have a hand like AK, 12 unsuited ways and 4 suited ways. Pocket pairs -- there are 6 ways to have a pocket pair. Now if one of these cards is on the flop, it changes the possible combos. For instance, on AJ5, there are now 3 aces and 4 kings he could have, so 12 combos of AK. There are now only 3 combos JJ, and 3 combos 55. If there are three suited cards on the board, there are at most 45 combos of flushes out there. Knowing your opponent's likely range and how many combos of each hand he could have will give you a huge advantage. For instance if you think your opponent has top pair or a set, and you have two pair (K9s), on a flop of K92 your opponent's range might be {AK, KQ, KJ, KK, 99, 22}. There are 8 combos AK, KQ, and KJ (you have a K so it's 2 kings * 4 = 8) for 24 total. There is 1 combo of KK, 1 combo 99, and 3 combos 22. So you're ahead of 24 combos and behind only 5, so you're very likely winning even though your opponent has bet. I recommend downloading's Equilab and messing around with that.

8) Be aggressive but not crazy. If you raised pre-flop and the flop has more than 3 players, give up if you didn't hit. If there are 2 players or it's heads up, consider making a continuation bet on boards good for your range and bad for your opponent(s). For instance, you raise in early position and get one caller. The board is A82 rainbow. Always bet here even if you missed as there are a lot more Aces in your range than the caller's. The one exception is if your opponent is a calling station who might call with something like K2 here. Don't bluff calling stations. You can bluff again on the turn and river if the board improves your range and doesn't help your opponent. This is called barreling and is covered in depth in "The Course". You can easily get carried away here if your hand-reading skills are poor so I don't recommend barreling much now except on obvious scare cards. Say you continuation bet on J93, you get one caller, and the turn is an Ace. This is a good spot to bet again. Say you get called and the river completes a flush or an obvious straight. If you're pretty sure your opponent is not on this draw, this is a good spot to bet again.

9) Don't trap people. There's rarely need. I see fish slowplaying AA all the time and they tend to get stacked a lot. Or they'll hit a set and then slowplay it earning very little money. Raise AA and KK pre-flop. If you hit a strong hand like a set, do not slowplay. Bet for value on all three streets. You want to play for stacks when you're way ahead.

10) Know why you are betting. There are three general reasons for betting: to get folds from better hands, to get calls from worse hands, and to deny your opponent his equity. The first two are by far the most important. Say you have KQ on a river board of KT7J3. The 3 completed a flush and the turn completed a straight. You've already bet the flop and turn. Although you likely have the best hand, there is not much reason to bet here against most opponents. Will hands worse than KQ call here? It's pretty doubtful. Maybe K9. Will hands better than KQ fold here? Maybe. But not much. You might get a fold out of AK from a tight opponent, but none of the straights, flushes, sets, or even two pairs are going anywhere for one bet. To bet for value on the river you need a worse hand to call 50% of the time. I don't think that is happening here, so just check.

Bonus tip: Don't be results-oriented! If you get the money in with top set and your opponent sucks out and hits a flush, that's just the way it goes sometimes. While skill is involved, the outcome of individual poker hands has a ton of luck involved. Just ask yourself, "Did I make the correct decision here?" If you did, great! If not, maybe write down the hand and post about it here for some pointers on where you went wrong or if you went wrong. The converse is also true. Just because you win a pot, it does NOT mean you played it correctly! You need to be just as careful about the pots you won as the pots you lost. Ask yourself if you were ahead when the money went in or if you sucked out. Ask if you could have won more money than you did with different bet sizing. Be careful about making conclusions about your play from short sample sizes. Generally you need several hundred hours before you can start to estimate a winrate and it will still be off quite a bit, particularly if you're a break-evenish or slightly winning player. Don't make the mistake of concluding you're doing everything right just because you go on a heater for 100 hours, and similarly don't conclude you're terrible if you go on a downswing. Whenever you think you've been very lucky or very unlucky, be extra careful about examining your play and your hands to make sure your decisions are correct. It's easy to delude yourself into thinking you've been playing great when you're making money, and it's easy to conclude you're playing terrible when you're losing.

Double bonus tip: Know hand values!! You can find charts online or in the books I recommended, but the worst things I see fish do with hand values are these: they play way too many Aces--offsuit Aces with a kicker below T are not premium hands. Fold hands like A5o unless you're on the button, and even then proceed cautiously. Most unsuited broadway hands are not premiums! KJo, KTo, QJo, QTo, JTo, these are all crappy hands in early to mid position. Just fold them. You can raise them from the Cutoff or Button. You are too likely to be dominated with crappy broadways and weak Aces when raising from earlier position. Don't play unsuited connectors like 87o or worse, 75o. These hands suck. Do not play suited garbage like J5s. Suited hands are great, but you want to be playing suited connectors like 87s, suited Aces, suited broadways, and suited Kings (but suited Kings only on the button). Fold the rest. They're trash. If you're unsure about a hand, it's probably trash.

Well, I still have lots of pointers but that's the best I can do in 10 points. I strongly, strongly recommend reading the books I mentioned. Jonathan Little's "Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Cash Games" is also a good book and can substitute "The Course." I think "The Course" is better but it's a little harder to understand and more expensive.

You can omit Essential Poker Math if you already understand pot odds, implied odds, rule of 2, rule of 4, etc., but even if you feel you do, I still recommend it as it has other concepts and does a great job presenting them with many examples. It's also quite cheap (I think free if you have a kindle unlimited subscription).

Hope this helps!

Last edited by Shai Hulud; 07-13-2017 at 04:08 AM.
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Old 07-13-2017, 06:45 AM   #6
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Lots of good advice above.

However, I think keeping 10 things in mind to start doing at the poker table is too much. If you are working on one thing to do better, that is enough of a challenge.

With that in mind, the one thing I see lots of players do is call. As a recreational player, you want to be calling much less than you do. Here's a couple of situations where people call too much.

Let's say the effective stack size is 100 BB. A player in early position raises and you're holding AQo in MP. Most people look at AQ and think, "that's a pretty good hand. I'm not going to raise with it because it isn't a monster, but I can't fold a pretty good hand. So I'm going to call." This is a mistake. If you're not confident that you have the best hand, you shouldn't be calling as an occasional player. You should be folding. Poker is about 4 things: Hand strength, Position, Skill and Initiative. Maybe skill is a toss up (people believe they are better players than they are). Of the three left, you only have an advantage in position. When you don't have an advantage in the number of edges, you should fold, not call. If you have the advantage, you should be raising.

Example 2. You have 87s in late position. There is a raise of 6 BB in the above game from an EP raiser. Everyone else folds. You know that you aren't ahead yet, but you've read that suited connectors are great implied odds hands, so inclination is to call and see what happens. Again this is a mistake. The odds of hitting a big hand (2 pair or better) is about 5%. So most of the time, you're going to fold on the flop. The problem here is that you're going to fold 19 times and lose 114 BB. If you stack the villain the other time (which you won't always do), you can only win 100 BB. You are losing more than you are winning.

Example 3. You ignore what I wrote in the first example and called with AQ. The flop comes Axx, the villain bets and you call because you have TP. He bets the turn. You still could have a winning hand, although now you're starting to doubt you're going to be good all that often. Lots of players keep calling because they might be good. This is another case where you should be folding if you think you're going be behind. Don't call because you might be good.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Good luck at the tables.
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Old 07-13-2017, 09:55 AM   #7
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Shai's list above is really, really good. I think ten things is a lot though. My wife comes to play with me very occasionally, and I basically give her the same advice every time, which works for playing 100 BBs deep in a 1/2 game with big raise sizing (so plays a bit more shallow than stack size suggests, more like playing 60-75BBs deep in a normal 1/2 game). Goal is to keep it very, very simple, give her rules she can implement, and cure her worse habits (not being aggressive enough with big hands pre, playing too many hands pre and being MUBSY post-flop). I also make clear that this advice stops working if she doubles up, at which point poker gets too complex for simple rules and she'll have to learn on her own. Finally, some of this (especially the c-betting) works because the people playing know she's a woman who doesn't play much and is there with her husband, so will give her credit when she's betting a lot of the time.

1. If you get a "big" hand and no one has raised yet (AT+, KQ, KJ, QJ, or TT+) raise to $15 or so. If you flop top pair good kicker or better with any of these hands, keep betting unless someone raises you, at which point you're probably going to get it in (people think they can bluff the woman who doesn't play much).
2. If you have JJ+ or AK and someone raises, 3-bet to about 3x their raise. Once you 3-bet, you're committed with all of your pairs unless an ace flops and you have an underpair, in which case you can fold to pressure.
3. If you don't have TPGK+ and you're the pre-flop raiser, you can bet flop for 1/2 pot. If called, shut down unless you improve to TPGK+ on a later street. Too difficult to explain the rare times that it's good to double barrel with air.
4. If pot is limped, she can limp all pocket pairs she's not raising with, suited gappers, suited connectors and suited broadways. Fold to a raise except with pocket pairs or when closing the action in a 4-way or larger pot when the raise is $10 or less. In these spots, she can only continue post flop with two pair +, an OESD or a flush draw. Note that I think this advice is probably a bit of a leak, but she's there to have fun and getting involved in some limped pots with pretty cards is still pretty cheap fun. If you're serious about making money I would tweak this advice.
5. Other than a c-bet, she should only bluff with an OESD or a FD, and she only if she can verbalize (in her mind) a reason why she thinks the V will fold. For instance "I see this guy raise every hand" or "he raised pre and board is 943, what can he have?"
6. Except as described in 4 above, she should only call raises pre with pocket pairs. Post-flop in these spots, no set no bet.
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Old 07-13-2017, 05:21 PM   #8
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

One more little thing-- don't show your hands!! Do not show your AA or KK when you raise and people fold. Do not show your AK when you bet J82 and everyone folds. Only show at showdown if you have to. Generally the last aggressor shows first. So if your opponent bets the river and you call with top pair, thinking you're good, and he flips over a set, just muck your hand. Conversely, if you bluff the river (say, with a missed draw where you now have a weak high card hand) and your opponent calls, just muck your hand.

You don't want people to know your raising ranges.
You don't want people to know your betting patterns with certain hands.
You don't want people to know when you're bluffing.

The less people know about how you play, the harder you are to play against.

Now there are exceptions where a very good player might intentionally leak information to manipulate his table image, but you're not there yet, so forget about it. This is a game of information. Pay attention to other people's hands, and DO NOT SHOW YOURS IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO!!
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Old 07-15-2017, 04:53 AM   #9
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

People giving really good advice but imo if you play live poker 4 times a year you are never going to get good (unless you play online + study etc).

You can't expect to be good at a hobby you barely commit time to. If for example you want to have a good shot in hockey, but you say you only practice shooting 4x a year how the hell will you ever get a good shot? Same with poker, you aren't going to luck into getting good. Competition in life, and especially in competitive games like poker is massive.

FWIW there is nothing at all wrong with being a rec poker player and treating the game as a fun gambling pass time that you play a few times a year. Set your expectations low and just have fun socializing and playing some cards imo
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Old 07-15-2017, 06:14 AM   #10
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Two points:

first, I think TreadLightly's post is the most useful to op. Nothing wrong with some of the other advice, but frankly you could replace most of it with five words:

.....Read a good NLHE primer.

second, the classification of rec[creational player] is not always a cue that villain is a fish. how many of you know Matthew Janda is a rec (it's right there in his bio, in his new book)? Plenty of switched on recs right here in BQ (not me ), but you can bet your mortgage rec or otherwise, they study and work at it most playing days.

Point is for op, if you want to get good at poker and win consistently you will have to study your ass off whether you are a rec or a pro. Giving yourself a list of bullet points is just a tiny fraction of the work you will have to put in, and nowhere near enough to be "kind of competent".


Otherwise, just read a primer and enjoy your hobby...but don't expect to make money at it.
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Old 07-15-2017, 08:39 AM   #11
Shai Hulud
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

I agree OP will have to study a ton if he wants to become a solidly winning player. However, I took from the post his expectations are lower--he wants to become a break-even to slightly winning player. I think plugging a few major leaks plus reading one of the books I mentioned would be enough to get at least break even, maybe more depending on retention level.

It's definitely a lot of work though to get any more than that.

Oh and Janda is a recreational poker player in the same sense Einstein was a recreational mathematician. Both technically true, but...
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Old 07-15-2017, 01:52 PM   #12
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Play more than 4 times a year.
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Old 07-18-2017, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: Recreational player looking to be more than a fish

Nothing to add, you already had pretty good answer.
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