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No matter how you play, or what games you play, this exercise is likely to shake up your strategies and your self-awareness beneficially. When you scrutinize your auto-fold ranges, it’s like getting your blood tested. You are alerted to immediate causes for concern. And you collect baseline data, useful for spotting unhealthy aberrations.

What Are Auto-Fold Ranges?

Auto-fold ranges are hands you always intend to fold before the flop in a given situation. For example, at hold’em, if you intend to always fold 8-3 offsuit under-the-gun no matter how your opponents are playing, then that hand goes in your auto-fold range for “hold’em, under the gun.”

Auto-fold ranges are player independent because they are defined by position and prior action. (And possibly stack sizes, if they are short.)

The hands outside of your auto-fold range make up your “it depends” range. With those hands, you might fold, you might call, or you might raise, depending on player tendencies and other variables.

Lopping Off Your C-Game

Think of your auto-fold charts as a water-tight seal that keeps you from leaking. Or picture them stitched together, forming a safety net. Always there. To catch you when you’re falling.

This drill will force you to come up with reasoning, however whimsical or sound, for choosing which hands to always fold. And this tough task will reveal to you which plays you make that you think you should never make.

It’s your big blind. The button opens. He could have any hand. The small blind folds.

What’s the worst 9-high hand you should defend with? 98? 97? 94? What about suitedness?

When you do this exercise, you are not in search of ultimate poker correctness. This is more important than that. You are rooting out your C-game, so you can lop it off.

Imagine yourself writhing in poker despair. Every big pair, cracked. Every flush draw either misses, or you get there and get felted. For days.

What if…

What if no matter how many losing hands or losing sessions you had in a row, you always honored your auto-fold ranges? How many drippy leaks would that plug over a lifetime? Hundreds? Thousands?

What if you played every session watertight? No preflop leaking. What would that do to your score?

Do you think you could do it?

I don’t know either. But I do know you can’t plug your leaks unless you know where they are. So you’d best get busy.

Three More Benefits
  • By knowing which of your preflop decisions are player independent, you increase accuracy and conserve bandwidth.
  • By examining each position’s folding policies, you raise your positional awareness.
  • By taking snapshots of your current ways, you’ll have them for later reference and amusement.
Instructions

The table of preflop situations shows positions along the top and prior actions down the side. It depicts 40 different preflop situations. This covers most everything except 4-bet pots and 5-bet pots, and you could add those if you like. You could also add granularity to the early positions. This is your sandbox.

Charts and tables are here:

Auto-Fold Spreadsheet in Excelthis is a downloadable file

Auto-Fold Spreadsheet in Google Sheetsthis is a link to the cloud

To print, use either link, and click print.

To do the deed electronically, type into the spreadsheets.

The Steps

Choose a situation from the Table of Preflop Situations, such as “cutoff, no one in.”

Sit down with a blank range chart (paper or electronic).

Assign a number to the new chart (1, 2, 3 etc). That number will go in the appropriate square in your table of preflop situations.

Fill in the game, position, and prior action information at the top of the range chart.

Then do this:

Mark the hands you think you should always fold.

And that’s your auto-fold range for that situation. The other hands are your it-depends range.

To mark your auto-fold hands in a spreadsheet, you can use bolding and/or coloring and/or cell shading.

Filling in a chart is a simple task. But not easy. It’s hard to decide on which hands to mark.

There’s another way to do the same thing, from the opposite direction. Start with a blank chart and mark every hand that you might want to play in that spot against weak opponents. Now step back and look at the range of hands you did not select. And that’s your auto-fold range for that situation.

Both methods of discovery provide enlightened views. In theory, they should produce the same ranges.

When you have finished filling in a range chart, put the chart number where it goes in the situations table.

Then do that 39 more times.

It’s not as arduous as it sounds because you’ll find yourself using some ranges more than once. It turns out I use only 4 ranges for all 40 squares. For details as to my auto-fold ranges and when I use them, check out this article: My Auto-Fold Ranges.

This is my Table of Preflop Situations table for live NLHE cash games, filled in, so you can see what the end product looks like:

(If I were you, I’d be curious right now as to how many auto-fold charts I will end up with.)

I recommend that you not do this exercise all at once. Spread it out. Fill in a few squares in the table, go play poker, then do a few more squares, and so on. Carry your new ideas from your desk to the poker table in small buckets.

If you want to talk with me about auto-fold ranges, or anything else, click on the coaching tab to schedule a video coaching call.

The post Auto-Fold Ranges: A Tool for Fixing Your Poker appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 1w ago

When I’m playing in a live NLHE cash game, I use four auto-fold ranges. And we’ll get to them soon. First, let’s define.

Auto-fold ranges are hands you always intend to fold before the flop in a given situation. For example, at hold’em, if you intend to always fold 8-3 offsuit under-the-gun no matter how your opponents are playing, then that hand goes in your auto-fold range for “hold’em, under the gun.”

Auto-fold ranges are player independent because they are defined by position and prior action. (And possibly stack sizes, if they are short.)

The hands outside of your auto-fold range make up your “it depends” range. With those hands, you might fold, you might call, or you might raise, depending on player tendencies and other variables.

This table shows positions along the top and prior actions down the side. It depicts 40 preflop situations. But 40 squares doesn’t mean you need 40 different charts. Some ranges are multi-purpose. For example, I use only 4 ranges for all 40 squares. They are at the end of this article.

About My Auto-Fold Ranges

I play a position-centric version of hold’em. From the early seats and the blinds, my auto-fold ranges are uncommonly wide. But on the button, I only auto-fold 1/3 of my hands. The ranges below are not intended to represent my opinions as to what is and isn’t profitable poker for anyone but me. They are here to show what the finished product looks like. For details on how to do this, and why, check out my article called Auto-Fold Ranges: A Tool for Fixing Your Poker.

Here are my auto-fold ranges for live NLHE cash games in a public casino in 2019:

Early Seats

If no one else is in the pot, my auto-fold range from the early seats is AQ, AJ, etc., KQ, KJ, etc., and all lower hands, suited and unsuited. That’s range #1.

If at least one player has limped or opened in front of me, my auto-fold range in the early seats shrinks, and is now the same as my auto-fold range as opener in the cutoff. That’s range #2.

Blinds

When there’s a raise, and I’m in either blind, I always fold these hands, suited and unsuited: KJ, K10, etc., QJ, QT, etc., and all other ace-less, pair-less hands. That’s range #3.

In the small blind, if there is no raise, I auto-fold the same range, including blind verses blind.

In the big blind, if it’s folded to the small blind and the small blind raises, my auto-fold range is the same as on the button.

Button

As first in the pot, or if others have limped or opened, my auto-fold range on the button is the same: all non-straighters that are king-high and lower. This is range #4. (A straighter is a hand that can flop a straight.)

Put another way, my it-depends range on the button is all straighters, all pocket pairs, and any hand with an ace. Situations exist where I might play any of those hands, right down to the worst straighter, 6-2 offsuit. But no situations exist where I will play the outliers.

Cutoff

In the cutoff, as opener, I auto-fold the same hands as on the button, with the addition of all unpaired hands containing a 2 or 3, and all gapped straighters containing a card lower than 8. (Translation: J7, T7, T6, 97, 96, 95, 86, 85, 84, 75, 74, 73, 64, 63, 62, 53, 52, 43, 32.)

If no one has entered the pot and I have looked left and I think the button is going to fold, this is a positional promotion, and my auto-fold range is now the same as on the button.

I also play my button range from the cutoff when one or more players have entered the pot in front of me.

Hijack

From the hijack, as opener, my auto-fold range is the same as the early seats, with these exceptions: If the button and cutoff both have low VPIPs from late position, or if one of them has telegraphed a fold, then the hijack is promoted to cutoff, and I play my cutoff auto-fold range.

I also play my cutoff range from the hijack when one or more players have entered the pot in front of me.

Your Turn

If you want to figure out your auto-fold ranges, instructions and supplies are here: Auto-Fold Ranges: A Tool for Fixing Your Poker

If you want to talk with me about your auto-fold ranges, or anything else, click on the coaching tab to schedule a video coaching call.

My Auto-Fold Charts

The charts below, along with the Table of Preflop Situations above, are in this Google spreadsheet.

The post My Auto-Fold Ranges appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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“The waiting is the hardest part.” – Tom Petty

 Anyone who conducts the Waiting for Straighters experiment at NLHE or PLO will find themselves doing a lot of waiting. Hole Card River is a game within a game for Omaha players. It’s a way to pass time and make money. Think of it as a game with benefits.

In Waiting for Straighters, I categorize PLO starting hands into three groups: hands with a pair, hands with an ace, and all other hands. Straighters are a subset of “all other hands.” A straighter is an ace-less, pair-less hand with no more than two gaps, total, in the whole hand. For example, J-T-8-6 is a straighter, while J-T-8-5 is not. Waiting for straighters is defined as folding all non-straighters, which means folding 90% of group three. Like I said. Lots of down time.

I’ll show you how to play Hole Card River at pot-limit Omaha. You can extrapolate from there how to play it during any of the mutants of Omaha.

The Object of the Game

The object of Hole Card River is twofold. The first is to enjoy a gambly-type anticipation buzz without having to actually wager anything. The second is to train yourself to stay true to your preflop beliefs when you’ve become bored or unhinged.

How to Play

To play the game, look at your cards after you receive your third card. Those three cards are your flop. Then your fourth card is the river. (If you are playing a game with five hole cards, then look at your cards after the fourth card. There is no turn card in this game.)

After you see your hole-card flop, you are either drawing dead -meaning you have no chance to make a flop-worthy hand -or you have outs. If you have outs, it’s possible to know precisely what they are, thus providing an acute buzz when you peek at your river card.

If my first three cards are, say, J-7-2 rainbow, and I’m under the gun, then I’m drawing dead. I can’t make a straighter, and I’m not playing that hand in that position even if I draw a suited ace or pair up.

The hands that deliver the biggest buzz are when my first three cards would fit into the same straight, such as 9-7-5. The most exciting starting hand in Hole Card River is of course three cards in sequence, like 9-8-7. Such a bounty of outs! If I catch a queen, jack, ten, six, five, or four, then I’ll have a straighter, and I’ll likely see the flop. I’m also playing this hand if I catch a nine, eight, or seven. That’s like, a million outs in this game.

The anticipation is not only thrilling, but also profitable, by helping me hold the line. When my first three cards are 9-8-7, I know I’ll be mucking if I catch a king, suited or not. That way, when I do catch a suited king (or any other near-miss card), I don’t mindlessly think I have a decision to make. I just fold.

What if I don’t buy into WFS?

If waiting for straighters is too strict for you, adjust to taste. Before you look at your last hole card, formulate some idea of which cards will result in a sure fold, which cards will result in definitely not folding, and which cards will leave you in an “it depends” situation.  Then see if you can stick to what you decided. The point of this exercise is to fold the hands you think you should fold. I’m talking about the end of leaking, which also means more folding. So why not play a game that builds discipline, to while away the waiting?

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post How to Play “Hole Card River” appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 3w ago

These events happened. The names have been changed to protect the naïve. All three hands are $20-40 limit hold’em.

Jerry Mander bet the turn. His lone opponent, Moe Mentum, paused to think. So Jerry made Moe an offer. He put his cards out in front. He put a $5 chip on one card and two $5 chips on the other card. Jerry pointed to the card with one chip on it and said to Moe, “You can pay me five bucks to see this card.” Then Jerry pointed to the other card and said, “It’s ten bucks to see this one.”

Everyone at the table was loving Jerry’s creativity, including Moe, who had his own rules in mind. Moe tossed three $5 chips over to Jerry. Then Moe turned over both of Jerry’s cards.

Jerry was unfazed as everyone gawked at his exposed ace-five. Jerry had no pair, no draw, he was out of position, he had already bet the turn, and now his cards were face up, meaning his pants were pulled down. So what else could Moe Mentum do but raise? And that’s what he did. Moe raised the turn.

Jerry called in tempo as if still dressed. The river was a blank. Jerry checked. Moe bet the river and Jerry called. Moe mucked. He couldn’t beat Jerry’s ace-high. Not only did Jerry’s cunning offer earn bluffing chips from Moe, but Jerry also got fifteen bucks icing. Brilliant.

Seeing that hand got me thinking about what I’ve been missing out on by going statue whenever I have cards. I decided to stay alert for bargains if the right people were involved, just for one night, just for fun.

An hour later I had eight-three in the big blind. Everyone folded to Justin Case on the button. Justin and I don’t go out of our way to beat each other up. We don’t soft play, but we don’t hard play either. Honestly? We play honest. Honest!

Justin slowly looked around like how he does. He saw my big blind sitting there like a red duck on a green pond, and he meekly limped from the button. The small blind called two chips and I knuckled. The flop came 9-9-4, twotone. The small blind checked the flop and I bet out.

Justin gave me a suspicious stare and called. The small blind folded. Right away, I called time out. This was my big chance to play Let’s Make a Deal. I mean, me and Justin are palsy, and the guy in the small blind had got up and was 20 feet away on the phone screaming at his bookie, so I knew he wouldn’t mind. Plus, I had just bet with nothing and got called. Perfect.

“Hey Justin,” I said. “How about if I take back three chips and you take the rest?”

Clever offer, ya think? If I had asked to take back my entire bet, it might have looked desperate and sent up a flare as to just how bad my hand really was. And if I had offered to take two chips back and Justin agreed, I’d have sold myself short because if he would say yes to two chips then he’d surely say yes to three, right? Man, I’m good at this! I should do it more often!

Justin quickly agreed to the deal. My bet was still in front of me, so I retrieved three of the four chips and thumb-flicked the other chip into the pot on it’s way to Justin.

Another player, Ella Mentry, spoke up. “Good play, Tommy,” she said. “By betting four chips to win 12, and by getting three chips back when you got called, you were retrospectively risking only one chip to steal 12 chips. Plus, if Justin had declined your offer, you’d know he had something, and you’d know not to get frisky on the turn, even if you made a pair. Ni Han.”

Justin heard Ella’s analysis and he didn’t care one bit. Later, Justin told me he had queen-ten and he was happy to take a quick profit. A good deal was had by all.

My other true-confession from that night is another money-back scenario, but this time my cards were already in the muck! I was in the small blind. The first player limped and everyone folded, including me. The pot was now heads up between the big blind and the limper. They glanced at each other and I knew what they were thinking. They wanted to chop the pot then and there, as if chopping blinds, but they couldn’t because my small blind was in the pot too.

So, I said, “Let’s chop!” Neither of them bothered to say, “Okay.” They grabbed their bets back, four chips each, leaving my two chips idle for an instant before I snatched up my piece of the pie. With no cards, I got a full rebate. As usual, a song lyric came to mind:


“They call that a bargain. The best I ever had.” — Pete Townshend
 

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post Bargain Hunting appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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I wanted to be a rock. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, to be called a rockwas the highest achievement in poker. I craved that badge of honor, and the promised riches. A rock was a solid player, imperturbable, aggressive, fearless, and above all -tight. The player who mastered tightness also mastered patience. And back then, patience was championed as the most important trait because few people had it and you could not be a winning player without it. Tightness was patience. Tightness was money. Tightness was freedom.

I’d been playing loosey-goosey poker for 10 years in low-stakes home games before I even learned what a rock was. I didn’t know I was a loose player because I’d never met a tight one. And then, when I finally saw tightness in action in Vegas, and I started reading about it in poker books, I felt like I had found a million dollars.

Several years later, my tightness was tight enough to earn a living. And after that, I did make a million dollars playing poker, grinding mid-stakes live cash games for 20 years. I made all that money, week after month after year, even though I never played as tight as I thought I should. Not for more than a couple hours at a time. Which meant I could have made tens of thousands more dollars per year, every year. And that fact bugged the shit out of me, year after disappointing year.

While that was going on, the games kept getting tougher, and by that I mean tighter. And I kept getting tighter too, right alongside the improving world, such that my earn rate stayed the same.

That takes us up to ten years ago, in 2009, when I began an experiment based on this somewhat silly question:

What’s the tightest I could play at NLHE and still earn the 10BB/hour I’d been making all along?

For example, if I folded 99% of my hands before the flop, no amount of talent and spidey sense could turn a profit. Same with 98%, and 97%, and so on, until… ?

The answer landed on me like a big fat duh. I could and should play exactly as tight as I did during the hours when I thought I was playing tight enough, and then never vary from that, like, ever. No more gaps in consistency, no more preflop leakage, whatsoever, as defined by me.

I took a vow.

And here’s three reasons why…

To prove to myself I could do it

I am competitive, but only internally. Playing poker is like going golfing by myself. I plop a shot into the pond. I chip one in from the fringe. None of it matters because there’s no one else there. I can beat myself up over bad shots, or not. I prefer not.

I take the same approach at poker. I’m always trying to play a little better than before, but if I don’t, that’s okay. And because I’m only competing against myself, I can invent challenges, at poker, and golf. Maybe I’ll play the next hole using nothing but a 5-iron for every shot. Or maybe I’ll putt with my eyes closed. One time I took on a huge challenge. I went golfing by myself and for some crazy reason I decided to carry my golf bag (instead of renting a cart as usual). It was a hilly course. I went home after six holes.

At poker, the ultimate challenge would be to play perfectly leaklessly forever. It’d be like a climber taking on Everest, or a swimmer crossing the Channel, or a sleep-deprived golfer lugging a floppy 35-pound bag around while enduring slopes and sunlight. Even if one doesn’t climb the mountain or survive nine holes, there is honor in the attempt.

To never again feel the pain of leaking

What does it mean to play leakless poker? To me, it means following my own rules. Before I could honestly and accurately evaluate my leaks, I would have to set bars for specific starting hands in specific situations, and say that if I played any hands worse than the bars I had set, then that was a leak. What I’m talking about here is exterminating my small leaks, the gray-area leaks, the ones that creep up and add up. Having well-defined leaks is a prerequisite for leaklessness.

Leaking had become more painful than losing. Painlessness would require leaklessness, so in the quest for painless, I had no choice but to aim for leakless.

To prep for dotage

When I took the vow, I was 50 years old, and my cogs were already showing signs of slippage. To ride off into the poker sunset − to have an edge in every game forever − I would need my game to be simple, solid, and spunky. That was my best shot at remaining profitable.

So in 2009, I took a shot at terminal tightness. And I managed to climb the first foothill. I went to Vegas and I played poker for five days, eight hours a day, and I won the internal competition against myself. I did not leak once before the flop, and it wasn’t even that hard to do, because I’d been working up to it my whole life.

Now it’s 2019, and so far so good. I haven’t been a perfect rock these last ten years, but pretty damned close.

But what of creativity? And flair? If you only play certain ranges in certain situations, then where is the cunning? And daring? And outmaneuvering your opponents?

All of that fun stuff is and ever shall be central to my game. I’m a gunslinger. It’s just that now I don’t shoot as often. The strength of my starting hands, on average, is at an all-time high, as is the percentage of streets on which I act last. Because my bullets are optimally profitable, I don’t need to fire as many.

During most of my long relationship with tightness, we were just holding hands. Now it’s a full embrace. And I must say, it was worth the wait, and the work.

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post My Love Relationship With Tightness appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 1M ago

Dear reader: I wrote this a million years ago.

The Setting: $20-40 limit hold’em

The Characters and Their Cards:

     Pat Hand − pocket aces

     Chatter − pocket eights

     Robin Blinds − nine-four offsuit on the button

The Action:

Pat: That idiot Robin has the button and I know he will raise with anything, so I’ll be real slick and just limp in with my pocket aces, planning to reraise when it comes back around. So I open for $20, and this goofball next to me, they call him Chatter, he says to me . . .

Chatter: “Hey Pat. I think you forgot to raise. Is that legal is this game”?

But then, I say stuff like that all the time. I suppose that’s why they call me Chatter. Thing is, all I do is say the truth, or some of it anyway, and they always take it the wrong way, just like I trained them to.

I have pocket eights and there is no point in raising, not with Pat already in, and reckless Robin right behind me on the button. I know Robin will raise whether I do or not, so I just call the $20, and of course . . .

Robin: Of course I raise. Somebody has to. Besides, I have the button. Plus I have granite Greg and tiltless Tommy on my left, in the blinds, both just itching to fold again. So I raise, and both blinds fold, and while that’s going on, I look at my cards. Nine of hearts, four of clubs. That’s okay. I’ve seen worse. Besides, when they say, “You have to play the cards you’re dealt,” they don’t say anything at all about folding.

Pat: Nice raise, Robin. You are like a puppet on my string. But wait. Both blinds folded? And it’s just me and Chatter and Robin? I think I’ll just smoothcall with these two aces, to make sure Chatter stays in. “I call.”

Chatter: I’m in here with dingus and doofus, and I’ve got pocket eights. Not bad. I call the four chips and say, “Let’s see the river.”

Robin: I was the raiser, and I have the button, and these two yahoos never know what I have. I like it. And I like my 9-4. It makes Pat and Chatter feel so good about themselves when I turn over a hand like this at the showdown. It amuses them, so I continue to do it, as a public service, like a humanitarian. Maybe they would be likewise amused to know that I got kicked out of Harvard for peddling bongs built in chem lab. And that now I own a chain of pipe stores, and that my cell phone is all charged up in case my head is needed at one of my head shops, so let’s see some flops. Here comes one right now:

ace – ace – eight

A perfect flop for my 9-4. Most likely I’ll lose one bet or win the whole pot. Looks like it was a good flop for Pat too, judging from the way he just said . . .

Pat: “Check.”

I check. Did anyone see me check? Jesus Mary and Joseph I just flopped four aces. Did I check too fast? Too slow? Holy-christ-I-cant-breathe.

“I check.”

Should I have said that again? Shhh!

Chatter: I suppose ace-ace-eight isn’t too bad a flop for pocket eights. Gives me merely eights full. The bad news is, even Robin won’t give me much action unless he’s got an ace, and in that case I’ll get all I can eat. So I’ll just check it and let Robin bet and maybe get Pat to join the party. I give the table a hearty rap while I say, “That flop is all me, boys. But I’m going to check it anyway.”

Robin: Man I’m hungry. “Hey Susie, what’s the special today? Seared Ahi? No thanks. They say you are what you eat, and I don’t want to be a fish. Or a fruit or a vegetable for that matter. Bring me a side order of — yes I know it’s my turn — I check — bring me a side order of bacon and two scoops of spumoni, like I had yesterday. Thanks hon.”

Pat: Dammit. I cannot believe Robin checked. Damn waitress. Oh well. I guess nobody has anything. I’m going to check my four aces again on the turn, real smooth, no matter what. Here comes the turn card. It’s the . . .

ace – ace – eight, eight

Chatter: Last eight in the universe. Nice. I make quad eights on the turn and Robin is ordering food and Pat is in some kind of weird trance. Looks like my best bet to make any money on this hand is to give Robin however much rope he needs to hang himself. Sometimes I scare myself, how good I play. I cast the bait and say, “Looks like it’s going be up to you to steal this pot, Robin. I check.”

Robin: Pat and Chatter both checked the turn? Hmm. That’s odd. I think maybe both of them started with pocket pairs in the hole, smaller than eights, and that they both just got counterfeited by the two pair on board. And that means that my nine-high is the best hand. Either that, or one of them has a full house and is trying to get me to bet. The best plan is to check now, and maybe call one bet on the river if it comes to that. After all, I’ve never called on the end with nine-high and won before. And how many chances will I get?

My cell phone rings. I look at the phone display. It’s Earl, my manager at store #2. I decide to have some fun. I answer the phone loudly and say, “Hi Earl. Do you think I should bluff ’em?” I ignore Earl’s “huh?” and I say, “I think you’re right. Thanks.” Then I say to the dealer, “I check.” Everyone has a little chuckle, except for Pat and Chatter.

Pat: They should ban those damn cell phones in here. Damn things take the gamble right out of people. I guarantee you, if Robin’s phone had not rung at that instant, he would have bet the turn. Damn cell phones. Here comes the river card. What is it? An offsuit deuce? Fine. Here then is the type of reasoning that makes me the great poker player that I am: I am 100% certain that Chatter and Robin will both fold if I bet the river. Therefore, the correct play is to check, to get one of these chumps to bluff. “I check.”

Chatter: Here is the type of reasoning that makes me the great poker player that I am: I am 100% certain that both these clowns will fold if I bet the river. Therefore, the correct play is to check and give Robin one last chance to bluff. So I say, “I don’t want to win this dinky little pot. I check again.”

Robin: Should I bet the river? Well let’s see. I am 100% certain that neither of my opponents has an ace or an eight because one of them would have bet by now. If I bet the river, I will be called by these hands that beat me: king-high, queen-high, and maybe even jack-high. And if I bet, the counterfeited pocket pairs will fold. That leaves ten-high as the only hand that I can bluff out. Therefore, the right play is to check the river, for value, with nine-high, and hope to win the showdown if they both limped in with pairs.

Instead of checking and waiting for them to show their hands, I go ahead and turn over my 9-4, for two reasons. First, if nine-high is the best hand, it looks great that it looks like I knew that it would be. Second, I don’t want these guys to ever forget my range of starting hands.

Pat: Robin shows, even though he doesn’t have to. He has his typical trash: 9-4. I turn over my pocket aces, poised and dignified. I have nothing to be ashamed of. It is yet another perfectly played hand by me. These simpletons have no idea how big my edge is against them. If the cards ever break even, I’ll bust ’em all.

Chatter: Pat shows quad aces and I’m thinking this is the happiest moments of my life. Not only did I save three or four hundred dollars by outplaying Pat. But now I can torment him about this hand, for weeks, months.

Not surprisingly, I have just the right material to kickoff the occasion. First, I pause and look at all those aces on the table. I touch a couple of them. Now I turn over my four eights, without saying anything, and I look at Pat. He turns bone white and stops breathing. Then he turns beet red and starts panting. I let the moment linger, tastefully, exquisitely, until everyone at the table has fully grasped the greatness of it. Finally, I deliver the line, as if scooping salt onto Pat’s wounds.

“Listen up, boys. I advise you to examine the way I played this hand, and learn this lesson from it: You can ne-ver-be-too-care-ful.” No one laughs except for that peebrain, Robin. Mister nine-four offsuit. Look at him, snickering, as if he’s the one who just got away with something.

Robin: It’s a tie as to who is worse at poker between these two bozos. And they both think they are way better than the other one. And they both think they are both way way better than me. But the truth is, I am way better than they are, because I know the secret. And here it is. Every player thinks he knows more than his opponent thinks he knows. And staying true to that idea, I really don’t think Pat and Chatter know that I know this.

At the showdown, I look at their hands – four aces and four eights – and I commend myself on being the greatest poker player of all time, this time. Then I realize something that makes me giggle. My hunch was right. They did both have pocket pairs.

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post Around Robin appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 1M ago

Dear reader: If you wish you did more meditating than you do now, you might want to check out my book, Dailyness. Below is an excerpt.

Why meditate?

To make things better.

Why daily?

To make sure.

It’s not what you do. It’s that you do. You plant seeds, in your meditation garden. Seeds of patience. Seeds of self-acceptance. Seeds of putting others first. You tend to your garden every day. You water it with your awareness, and your commitment is the sun that each day always rises.

You have to want it.

Usually that phrase means: You are going to have to try really hard.

Another possible interpretation is: Desire is required.

And that, my friends, is the secret to dailyness. You have to want to garden. You have to desire to sit every day. In two distinct ways. You have to want to have a practice. And you need to look forward to the sitting itself.

To get there, you might have to stop and start a lot. And you might need to chisel away at massive roadblocks. But at least now you know what you’re up against. And you know what you’re after: the tipping point. You’ll know you’ve reached it when you wake up feeling lousy, and there’s no confusion about what you want to do first.

Dailyness is available in print, ebook, and audiobook at all the usual places.

The post You Have to Want It appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 2M ago

I was 14 years old in 1972 when astronaut Harrison Schmitt aimed a Hasselblad camera out the window of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on its way to the moon and took a photograph of the full earth from 25,000 miles up. NASA dubbed that photo “The Blue Marble.” It showed the world the world, with surprisingly sharp edges against the even more surprising darkness of space. White clouds and blue water. Stark, round, real.

That was also around the time when small appliances began to breed and evolve into wondrous species such as the digital radio alarm clock. Digital still meant digital back then, as in “with digits”, as in, numbers, as in “Look mom, no hands!” My folks had one. The appeal for my dad was no more squinting at toothpicks on a dial, and for mom it was waking up to music.

It was Christmas morning by the tree. A big cardboard tube had my name on it. I pried off the plastic cork and pulled out a giant roll of stiff paper that unspun itself briefly upon birth. Then it resisted any further unrolling as if shy. My brothers took the corners and held it so I could see. It was a picture of Planet Earth, southern hemisphere, African side. There’s the north coast of the Sahara Desert, and the entire Saudi Peninsula, looking just like on a map, and lots of white streaks below that. Must have been a clear day in Madagascar because there it is, right where it belongs, and below that is the huge white smear of Antarctica, and all over the world is water, and clouds, all a swirl, timeless, like it really is raining, and sunny, somewhere, everywhere, always.

The next gift I opened was a digital radio alarm clock. This was not just any digital radio alarm clock. This one had a light in the top that shined up, projecting the time, in digits, on the ceiling. I didn’t have to fake that I liked it.

Saving bests for last, as was our custom, mom handed me a box. “It’s for all of us, but you open it,” she said. I opened the box and pulled out the gift that bent my young path toward a deliciously derelict life of poker. It was a brown cylinder, squatty, a little smaller than a soccer ball, with a handle on top poking through the cover. I removed the cover. Inside was a rack of poker chips that spun around. Eight column-shaped slots held eight stacks of poker chips, four white, two red, two blue, still wrapped in clear plastic. Two rectangular slots in the center of the rack held two decks of cards, also wrapped in plastic.

I unwrapped a stack of chips. They were the super-cheap ultra-thin chips, with the shark-toothed edges that lock together after a slight rotation. They even sounded cheap, like a kid’s toy, but I adored them anyway.

I unwrapped a deck of cards. They were nothing at all like a kid’s toy. They were top quality, made of 100% plastic. It said so on the ace of spades. And they were washable. It said so in the instructions. This was some severely modern space-age shit. I had never seen or heard of anything like these all-plastic playing cards. For me, for us, back then, a deck of cards was a good deck if it was all there. Marks? Of course. Rips? No problem. Spots worn off from playing endless hours of Euchre at the park on a picnic table made of concrete? Standard. Cards was cards and they were not expected to last.

(This was roundabout the time I realized that Euchre was a dumb game. First, there’s the name. Euchre, pronounced Yooker. What’s up with that? Trying to hide a lame game behind a chic name? Henceforth it shall be called Yooker, a silly name for a silly game. And what’s up with the Jacks? The bowers. The what? Left and right? Huh? And the dumbest thing of all, Yooker uses only half the deck, thereby filling the world with decks of cards that are half-pristine and the other half worn out.)

But these new all-plastic cards, these Christmas cards, they had a special feel, in my hands, a stiffness, when shuffled, a satisfying flexing resistance. And with each shuffle came the perfect-riffle sound, much louder than paper cards, with a distinctive ending. And you could shuffle them end to end, endlessly, without trashing the edges. I even liked the smell. By then I had become the greatest card player in the world so it seemed right that I should now have the best cards in the world. I will care for these cards like a pet. They will be the immortal indoor cards. Their faces will not get roughed up. They will get put away. And they will not be used for Yooker.

At noon, the gifting was all done and the big meal was hours away. I was in my room, energized, with my presents. Poster, got it, tape, got it, wall, which wall, that one, the main one, down comes the cork bulletin board, up goes the poster, slowly, carefully, as I was taught, with reinforcement taping on the back for longevity. I stood back. Yes.

Try to understand, Walter Cronkite was the President of the Actual Universe, and the space program was the next best thing to Star Trek reruns. And here was the Earth, on my wall, just as it looked to the lunar-mission astronauts from three diameters away, spectacular and bright, surrounded by the flattest of blacks.

I sat the digital radio alarm clock on my bedside table. Just how does this thing work anyway? Get screwdriver, which kind, flat one, undo screws, remove bottom casing, more screws, top comes off. Check it out! It’s got thick plastic ribbons inside, with numbers cut out of them, stencils, that turn, passing above the light bulb, sending the time, in digits, eternally into space, or, more mundanely, onto a ceiling, if one happens to be in the way.

I could not resist tinkering with those ribbons of numbers. I pulled on them and stretched them and generally tormented the ribbons until time stood still on this clock, for good. So I yanked the ribbons of numbers all the way out. Now I had a tinny-sounding radio with a flashlight on top.

I put the casing back together, and, oh my, what is this? Without the stenciled ribbons to block most of the beam, the bulb projects a perfect circle of light onto the ceiling, a circle that is remarkably similar in size to the Blue Marble, and, here we go again! Remove poster from wall, get tape, stand on bed, can’t reach the ceiling stably enough, move the bed, get stepladder, climb ladder with tape and poster, struggle, but eventually successfully tape poster to ceiling, carefully, to last. Remove ladder, reposition bed, place thin book under edge of the alarm clock and adjust arrangement until the beam shines directly on Earth. It doesn’t look like much right now. It’s too bright in here. But tonight.

That night, I lay in bed awake. My eyes were fixed on the big picture, Planet Earth, as it hung on my ceiling as if in space, with blackness everywhere except for directly on the blue marble, lit by the alarm clock’s solar rays, my brain convincing itself into space. I was shuffling a deck of cards on my chest, end to end, without looking, finishing with a perfect brick of plastic every time.

Staring at the Blue Marble seemed to help me see things better. If my vision got too narrowly focused, if I got too carried away, with a thing, or an event, or a game, I always had the Blue Marble, waiting for me at night, to bring me back to earth. Now, the alarm clock is long gone, and the cards didn’t really stand a chance of surviving an entire adolescence. But thanks to cardboard tubes, I still have that poster of Earth. It’s buried in the basement somewhere, but never too far out of mind. I’m going to go dig it out right now, to get another glimpse at just how small the big picture is.

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post The Blue Marble appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 2M ago

Dear reader: This is an excerpt from Waiting for Straighters. You can read the whole thing here.

Waiting for Straighters and Being Last to Act

“Acting last is like taking a drink of water. We don’t have to understand why it’s good for us to know that it is. And the benefits are unaffected by our understanding of them.” —Elements of Poker

 “There are only two postflop positions: last to act, and other.” —Elements of Poker

Being last to act is about losing the least when you’re beat, and winning the most when you’re not. Only as last to act can you check behind. Only as last to act can you bet when checked to. Only as last to act can you be bet into when you have a monster. Only as last to act can you plan the hand as last to act. This is why money flows to the button.

Waiting for straighters does not mean playing straighters out of position just because you have a straighter. Waiting for straighters combines two kinds of waiting. Waiting for cards. And waiting for last to act.

Reminder: It’s a short wait from the blinds to the button.

The button makes all hands better, but not equally. Drawing hands gain the most. The difference in value between 9-8in the small blind and 9-8on the button is greater than the difference in value between A-Ain the small blind and A-Aon the button. I happen to think it’s a lot greater. I fold 9-8 (suited or not) from the blinds and early seats. And I play 9-8 (suited or not) on the button (if the bet-size to stack-size ratios are right).

You have AQin the big blind. It’s folded to the button. He gives lots of action. He opens to 5x. The small blind folds and you 3-bet. The button calls. The flop is J32.

Nice flop, right?

Please take a moment to recall the tinge of tension you feel on each street, in your core, as first to act. I’ll wait.

Now compare that discomfort to the luxurious feeling of flopping the nut flush draw with overcards, and acting last. The reason you feel safe and profitable is because you get to see what they do first, on the flop, on the turn, and on the river. You’ll never have it so good with nothing.

If you’ve played a lot of poker, you subconsciously know that every time you’re in a headsup pot, you are always either in the very best position in poker, or the very worst. You either have the advantage, or you don’t, on every street.

Here’s my approach to playing NLHE and PLO. I know from experience that if I act last on way more streets than the opposition, I’ll make enough money to live on. So I fold a lot preflop from the blinds and the early seats, and after the flop, I give up sooner than most when I’m first to act and I whiff. The result is that I am last to act on about 80% of the streets I play. It’s such a huge edge that sometimes it feels unfair.

I take the same approach with straighters. My objective is lopsidedness. I want to start with straighters more often than my opponents do, and I accomplish this by folding non-straighters more often than they do.

Being last to act is a power that should be abused, right up to the point when it shouldn’t. Pro players swing like a pendulum around that point. We tighten up, and that generates power that we then abuse appropriately and profitably, for a while, until we abuse it too much, which causes losing, and the pain of losing makes us tighten back up, which turns the power back on, and the winning resumes.

The cycle I just described is a fractal. It can play out over a span of months, weeks, or hours. I have used WFS to end the power cycle permanently on all time scales. WFS keeps me from over-abusing the power, and poof, no more pendulum.

2018 Coaching Update: I’m doing video coaching now on whatever ails you — from betting problems and tilt issues to bad quitting and no patience. For more details and to schedule a call, click here.

The post On Being Last to Act appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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Tommy Angelo by Tommy Angelo - 2M ago

Dear reader: In this Painless Poker excerpt, the discussion at the Painless Poker Clinic turns to the word “enlightenment.”

I wrote HANGUPS on the board and said, “When you hear the word meditation, what negative thoughts come to mind?”

“There’s this reg at the casino,” Sonny said. “We call him Fast Frankie. He went and got all enlightened on us and now he drives everybody bonkers. I’m afraid if I got jacked up on this meditation thing, I’d end up like him, with people rolling their eyes behind my back.”

“What does enlightenment even mean?” Victor said.

“Enlightenment is a word,” I said, “so it means whatever we say it means. In Buddha-speak, enlightenment is the absence of desire or suffering, or a revelation or insight, or a change in consciousness that sees all as one.”

“That’s a lot to ask of one word,” Charlie said.

My hand shot up. “But wait! There’s more! Thich Nhat Hanh and Shunryu Suzuki teach that when a person is mindful, they are enlightened at that moment. I like that take on it. It’s knowable, and doable. Suzuki even says that anytime you assume the straight-spine posture, you are enlightened.”

“What about being an enlightened person?” Charlie said. “Are you that?”

I slowed down a bit.

“When I started counting breaths and I saw just how frenetic my mind is all the time, that was enlightening. So was the first time I saw someone else’s busy mind as the cause of their troubles. That new perspective shrunk my stress. It was astounding, and still is.”

“And that makes you enlightened?” Victor asked.

“I think the E-word has an unnecessary syllable. The first one. The word lightened says it just as well. Anytime I shed mental weight, I lighten up. I become a lightened being.”

2019 update: I have a new book out, about meditation. It’s called Dailyness − How to Sustain a Meditation Practice. You can get it in print, ebook, and audiobook at all the usual places.

The post Lightened appeared first on Tommy Angelo.

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