“A fun cash game will likely be a more profitable one”:
Insights from Poker Wizards
Your best profits lie in games where people are being sociable
and having a good time. Players tend to play a bit looser in
that type of environment and are definitely less focused. If you
are trying to make money, you are far better off playing with
people who are just there to have fun. If they're recreational
players who only have a few hours to play after work or before
a show, they will be far less likely to wait two hours for aces and
will be mixing it up more to get some action. Meanwhile, the
guy who is making a living out of it is going to wait for better
If you find a table you like and expect to be playing there
for a few hours, it is best to create a pleasant ambiance. You
can play a little bit loose and go after small pots at first, and
perhaps end up losing some money. But eventually, you can
change gears and create a big edge. Just because you are being
friendly and having fun doesn't mean you can't play to win.
Often, people prefer to be social rather than cautious and will
play a lot of hands so they can be a part of the camaraderie
you have helped create. It is similar to a group of people going for a coffee.
You may rather have a nice glass of orange juice, but you actually have
a coffee because that is what your friends are doing. The same
will occur in a cash game if people are enjoying themselves;
they will play hands that they shouldn't. Being aware of that
phenomenon is one of the best ways to make money in cash
games. The big difference between you and the other players
is that you are going to make sure that the percentages are in
your favor when the big money goes in.
Poker Tells and Strategies to Spot Them
Liars are everywhere. But nowhere are they more prevalent than at the poker table. You can master the game and learn all the tips and tricks you want, but being able to spot a bluff or a player's strength is one of the greatest skills of a good poker player. In fact, it's a skill that can translate to other areas of your life as well.
In poker, the ability to read an opponent at the table is a huge advantage. It's called a "tell" - a detectable physical reaction or change in behavior or demeanor that gives (or tells) the other players information about your hand.
I recently interviewed a group of the best poker players in the world for a book called Poker Wizards and all these great players believe that observing your opponents actions is a critical poker strategy.
Many of the best "tells" are apparent in the way people bet not just the way people move. The relative amount of chips the bet in various situations are called 'betting patterns' but learning the most common physical tells can also give you a lot of valuable information. To do so, it is very important to constantly watch the players you're at the table with, as well as monitor your own behavior to make sure you're not giving anything away. When people are bluffing, in poker and in most other situations, unless they're sociopaths, they feel some level of discomfort. Normally, when they have a good hand they are more confident. It's your job to sense that discomfort or confidence.
Physically, there are many ways for those feelings to manifest themselves and if you're vigilant and observant, you can spot many signs. The first place to look for signs of discomfort is a person's face. Start at the forehead and scan down, looking for clues which are new and contrary to their normal behavior.
Facial Clues 1. Forehead furrowed or sweaty 2. Pupil dilation 3. Eyes closed or looking up and to the left or right 4. Rapid eye movement 5. Nostril flare 6. Tight lips 7. Smile 8. Wetting lips, swallowing or gulping Next, take a look at the person's hands and body. There are several clues to be found there.
Hand Clues 1) Hands covering or touching the face 2) Rubbing eyes 3) Steepling of fingers 4) Touching hair 5) Tugging at clothes
Voice/Speech Clues 1) Someone who is usually talkative or suddenly quiet 2) Change in speech patterns i.e. speaking more softly or faster than usual 3) Pitch is higher than normal 3) Speaking more forcefully 4) Crackling 5) Verbal or non-verbal sighs
In general, the key to spotting a liar is being observant and noticing changes in their behavior or body language. In poker it involves watching the players even when you're not involved in the hand.
Poker Tip: Some more experienced players will try to fake you out and misguide you by purposely displaying unusual behavior. Luckily, actors are often easy to spot. Then there's another group of people who exhibit all the signs of discomfort but it's not because they're lying, it's because they've got a great hand! Only prior observation will give you the key to that riddle.
The Poker Face While some people believe you need to have a poker face to be good at the game that really isn't the case. You can make all the strange faces you want, as long as you're consistent in doing so. Daniel Negreanu firmly believes in following hints a person gives you that often have nothing to do with physical tells, but more about their general personality, job and comments they make at the table. Use all your senses and follow your gut. When everything else is equal, listen to that voice inside your own head, it's usually right because it is based on thousands of hands of prior experience that your conscious self has forgotten.
Even though it is a great poker strategy to look for specific tells, the point you really have to remember is that very few tells apply to everybody. One of the many things that Marc Salem taught me when writing Poker Wizards was that:
For one person, leaning forward may mean strength, for the next guy it may mean that he is weak and is just trying to look strong. The best way to get the key to understanding tells, is to be super observant at the table.
Poker Wizards: Tips and Strategy from the worlds great No Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament Players.
Warwick Dunnett is a semi-professional poker player, Public Speaker, Boeing-747 Captain, ex Futures Trader and Author of Poker Wizards; a book of poker tips and strategies from a group of players including Daniel Negreanu, Chris Ferguson, T.J. Cloutier, Marcel Luske, Mike Sexton, Kathy Liebert and Mel Judah.
A Poker Players Biggest Sin - Poor Money Management
Part 1- Money Management for Cash Games
Dan Harrington, one of the World's most respected poker players, says the worst sin professional gamblers can commit is not being able to play because they’ve let themselves run out of money. He’s witnessed too many brilliant players fall by the wayside because they played outside the limit of their bankroll.
When interviewing the world’s top no-limit hold’em players for the book Poker Wizards, I asked them about money management, bankrolls, cash games and tournaments. Not surprisingly, their money strategies vary as much as their playing styles but just about everyone agreed on one thing; If you’re a good poker player, your bankroll is your ammunition… never run out of bullets.
All the top players I spoke with say cash games are the most consistent way of making money in today’s poker environment. According to Daniel Negreanu, anybody who’s serious about becoming a professional poker player should start doing it the good old-fashioned
way, through side games because they provide
a much more steady diet of money than
For many of the new, younger players however,
cash games just don’t have the thrill that tournaments do. Mike Sexton says that compared to the seemingly instant fame and fortune that can be obtained in front of the cameras on the tournament circuit, cash games can seem like a lot of work and little glory to many people. Unfortunately, it’s also not all that common for players to be both great tournament players and cash game winners.
What is an appropriate bankroll for playing cash games? Harrington believes new players should start with the smallest bankroll they can play comfortably and beat the lowest game, then slowly work their way up. Mike Sexton agrees. He says one of the most common mistakes new players make is playing at limits too high for their skill level and bankroll.
Chris Ferguson wont play in a cash game unless the buy-in is less than 5% of his total bankroll and will get up and leave if his growing stack means he is risking more than 10% of his total bankroll at any one time. Ferguson has also set a rule for himself that if he ever loses half his bankroll, he’ll go back down to a lower level where the skill level of his opponents is less and slowly build up his assets again with reduced risk.
The lesson: No matter how good you are you’re going to have losing streaks and may have to drop down to a lower level to rebuild your equity.
Pot-limit and no-limit games tend to be more risky than limit games but can be very rewarding for skilled players who can live with the volatility. For lower risk, and smaller bankroll requirements, stick with limit games - for many players they provide a more consistent source of income with much smaller financial swings.
Everyone agreed, when it comes to cash games if you are skilled, and playing at the right level - there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be ahead at the end of most weeks. As a result, try to have a total bankroll that will allow you to survive that long at your chosen level and try not to risk more than 5-10% of total disposable poker bank at any one time.
What sort of a bankroll should you have to play in Tournaments? You can read the answer to this question and others in the second half of this article in our next blog.
Warwick Dunnett is the author of Poker Wizards: Wisdom from the World’s Top No-Limit Hold’em Players at www.pokerwizards.net