Chill! There's A Lady At The Table!

Thursday 4/2/15 time 2:43 PM - PokerHelena

Recently I got a good laugh again at a poker table when one of my opponents realized that there is a woman playing against him. So guys, what's up with that?

I played in two tables during the same tournament.

At the first table my opponents were so convinced that as I am a woman I must be a very tight player. As they were commenting my possible holdings out loud after the situation was over they were convinced that I had the best possible hand. Well... I didn't. And at that situation it was great, because my semi-bluff worked awesomely!

At another table  another guy kept raising me over big time when I was on blinds. That was until I reraised him all-in. He looked at me like I was the most horrible person in the world and then started cursing about how women want equal rights and how my behavior doesn't support that. He was convinced that I was too aggressive for a woman.

Oh well, again that was my win.

Guys, give us a break. There is a lady at the table. Your testosterone level is understandable, but it's just a game ;)

1 comment . Keywords: experience, strategy

Olybet Kings Of Tallinn: Didn't Become The Queen And Had To Fold The Kings

Thursday 2/26/15 time 10:17 PM - PokerHelena

Last weekend I visited Tallinn to attend Olybet Kings of Tallinn poker festival. I only participated in the Ladies Event, but it was great to meet the local ladies and get a small part of the tournament vibe.


Before going there I had never played in a Ladies Event before. Therefore I didn't quite know what to expect. I somehow thought that there would be many women from different levels - those who have been playing regularly, but also beginners who haven't played much yet.

Apparently I was quite wrong, as the players were all experienced players who often played together. There were only 15 participants and the atmosphere was more like local ladies gathering on a Friday evening than a serious poker tournament. It was pretty relaxed, although got more serious towards the end when the prize was more reachable.


The starting stack was 7000 and there were 20 minute levels. 20 minutes is quite a turbo tournament and I definitely would have liked to have the levels a bit longer. The blinds increased very fast and when antes kicked in it became quite a push/fold luck game. So I dropped out when put all in with A-x and unfortunately ran into A-Q of another player.

The pain of folding pair of kings

There was also one very awesome hand where I was forced to fold K-K. It was awesome, because I don't think I would have been able to fold pair of kings before and it also paid off.

So I had K-K and raised around three times big blind from beginning of the round. I got two callers. The flop was x-7-8 (x was 3 or 4). I was the first to go, so I bet around half the pot, which was 400. The second player reraised to 1000. The third player reraised all in (few thousands).

If I read this case from a poker book I would know what it said, but it is so bloody difficult to think straight at a poker tournament table. Sometimes you go through the whole tournament without getting a single pair in your hand. So how can you fold this pair of kings?

So all those thoughts went through my head. What does she have? Why did they call before flow, but reraise it now? How have they raised before and what kind of cards they have shown? Eventually I was pretty sure she had 8-8 and a set. It was bloody difficult, but I folded the hand.

The second player called the all in. She had pair of sevens and the all in reraiser had a pair of eights. You would think that the drama ended there, but no. Seven fell on the river and the 2nd player won with four sevens!


The winner of the Ladies Event was Kelly Limonova. The main event brought in more than hundred players from Estonia, Finland, the Baltics and other countries. The King of Tallinn was Ranno Sootla.

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, Olybet

Next In Line: Olybet Kings Of Tallinn

Monday 2/9/15 time 8:46 PM - PokerHelena

I signed up for Olybet Kings Of Tallinn Ladies Event on 20.2.2015! I have never played in a ladies event before, so it's going to be interesting. At the same time I don't expect it to differ much from general games.


I have asked some of my friends about how women play differently. Their response was that generally women tend to be play more carefully and tighter. So it might be that more aggressive game might be better at ladies event. 

Why ladies event this time? As I go to Tallinn only for the weekend this was the only No Limit Hold'em event that can be played during one day, is not turbo and has right buy-in level for me. So I think I have given myself the best chances to succeed. Wish me good luck! ;)

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, Olybet

Poker Tournament Plan 2015

Sunday 2/8/15 time 7:53 PM - PokerHelena

For the past couple of weeks I have been crafting the tournament plan for 2015. As I didn't manage to win anything last year I have put a lot of thought into what I should change in my approach. As a result I have come up with few things.


1. I choose tournaments that emphasize on my strenghts

I live in Helsinki and Helsinki Casino is the only place where you can play poker for money. Unfortunately the casino doesn't make it very easy for newcomers to succeed. The rake is high compared to the tournament buy-in, all the weekly tournaments are turbo and the tournaments are full of regular players (as it is the only place they can play).

So I decided that to succeed I have to play more abroad and online. That's why my tournament plan includes now tournaments like Olybet Kings of Tallinn in couple of weeks, Estonian Championship in April and regular poker tournaments in Tallinn casinos.

I haven't been very successful in turbo tournaments, so I make sure that I won't get into any of those. That's why I chose Ladies Event over Turbo Freezeout event at Kings of Tallinn (main event was not an option due to too high buy-in).

2. I go for tournaments that are on the right level for me

As much as I would like to go to WSOP main event I don't think this $10,000 will be very well invested. So I have chosen more carefully which tournaments I should go to by considering what kind of crowd it will attract.

My tournament calendar has some regular weekly games, as well as bigger annual games. However, I have ensure that all of them give me a challenge that I believe I can meet.

3. Proper preparation and reporting

As I select the tournaments beforehand I will have time to prepare for them in a better way. For example, I can play some smaller sit&go's that help me to develop some parts of the game I believe will help me in the bigger tournament.

I have also promised myself and friends to report all the games, which forces me to analyse what went well and what didn't go that well. Putting a conscious effort into every game differentiates it from "I'll just go and see what happens" approach.

The next tournaments that I want to participate are the Olybet Kings Of Tallinn in couple of weeks and Estonian Championship in April. In March and May I will concentrate on more regular games in both casinos and online.

What do you think about my approach? Let me know in case there are some games I should consider or make changes to my apprach to my tournament plan!


Leave a comment. Keywords: Experience

Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand At A Time, Vol. 3

Wednesday 2/4/15 time 11:51 PM - PokerHelena

The first poker book of the year is “Winning Poker Tournament One Hand At A Time, volume 3”. I haven’t read the first two books from the same series, but based on the description thought that this is exactly what I need.

The book is essentially analysis of different hands from real tournaments by three professional players – Eric “Rizen” Lynch, Jon “Apestyles” van Fleet and Jon “PearlJammer” Turner. The pros give awesome comments on what they would do in those situations, why they did it like that and what would be their reaction if certain actions happened after their turn.

From hand to hand there are some key lessons I have learned and additionally I can recognize some of the situations, as have been in similar positions myself. At times I have got the “oh, of course, why on earth didn't I think about that?!” feeling, so it has been definitely a great and helpful read.


Here are main things that I have learned.

1. Don’t think about only your next step (will I call/fold/raise?) but what you will do after that (what is he will reraise?).

Whereas I have got to the level of thinking “what might my opponent have?” I still haven’t managed to think much further from my next action. But actually it’s not that hard. From hand to hand the three pros show how you can easily make a decision about your next move based on what might happen in the hand overall.

Never bet if you don’t know why you do it and what you expect to happen as a result of that. What will you do if he checks/calls/raises? Do you expect the result of the hand to be? These are the questions I am forcing myself to think about now.

2. Expect to end up all in with around 20 big blinds left

From the Harrington’s book I learned to count M’s – the rounds I have left at the table before my blinds run out. However, I never thought about how far I have to be ready to go in the hand overall when I have certain amount of blinds left.

So now I remember that I should put more thought into entering a pot with 20 blinds or less. When to think about it, it’s quite logical. If you raise to 3 big blinds, someone three-bets you to 5,5 big blinds and you call, you are left with 14,5 big blinds. By that time there are around 12-13 big blinds in the pot, which doesn’t leave you much room for you to fold.

Thinking about it consciously helps to plan the hands better in long run and essentially follow my previous learning point.

Rizen also mentions several times that he has a rule that he never calls a bet that is more than 5% of his stack without a very specific purpose for doing so. That was a pretty good (and simple) guideline to remember as well. I think the book has improved my thinking of bet sizes compared to my stacks and to my opponents' stacks overall.

3. There is not always right or wrong ways to play a hand.

Whereas in many hands the pros would have played the hand in similar way there were some big differences in some hands. They admitted that it quite often depends on the read you have from the other players and the situation. Are they tight or loose players? Have you won many pots without anyone willing to respond to your raises? Do players defend their blinds aggressively? How high was the buy-in? Are we at the beginning or end of the tournament?

So staying alert and following your opponents is a super important part every tournament. It’s quite basics, but it's something that tends to forget easily. And it became quite clear through the actual hands from the book.

I have realized that I love to read and learning through reading is really my thing. It brings me back to some of the games I have played and some situations I have been to. And this book has definitely taken my thinking to a new level again.

Leave a comment. Keywords: Books

Friends And Poker

Sunday 2/1/15 time 11:45 PM - PokerHelena

Yesterday I was at friend's birthday party which was in 1920s/1930s style. Among other things the friend had planned a turbo poker tournament. I haven't really played in parties, so it was kind of first experience with that.

There were some very good players there, as well those that had never played before. So people took it quite relaxed. Was awesome to have that kind of poker experience for a change! And yes, it was also a profitable evening for me :)


Leave a comment. Keywords: experience

2014 In Review: Excitement, Learning And Disappointments

Wednesday 1/28/15 time 5:22 PM - PokerHelena

Year 2014 was an extremely important poker year for me for many reasons.

1. I participated in first bigger live tournaments.

Whereas I was already used to playing in local home games, it’s a whole different things to go to a casino, pay much higher buy-in and hope there wouldn’t be any pros sitting at your table. And of course they did.

2. I learned which games I like and which ones I don’t.

I have already previously said that I’m more of a tournament type of person and in 2014 I confirmed that all over again. Also I learned that I like freezeout games.

3. Developed the virtue of patience.

I am a pretty competitive person which has been good in sports, so I have taken poker tournaments a bit like a marathon – long trip to a rewarding finish. However, marathons and poker tournaments have a huge difference. In marathon you still want to get to the finish line as fast as possible, whereas in poker the goal is not the speed, but being the last one left. Thinking about it, it feels very obvious, but sitting at a table I had to remind myself several times that I have time and I don’t have to make desperate moves.

Competitiveness is good, impatience not so much.

4. I learned it’s not easy to win.

I knew it, but I really felt it. In fact, I didn’t make it to money in any official tournament in 2014. Partly I blame myself for not playing enough to get the experience, as well as not improving my game enough to prepared for some situation I got myself into.

Partly I blame Finnish gambling laws. If there is only one place in the capital of the country where you are allowed to play poker for money then you can be sure that you can’t choose your opponents - all of them are there at one place from rookies to professionals. So the advice of “be aware to which table you sit at” or “choose the right kind of tournaments” hasn’t really helped me. The same players are in every damn tournament.

Considering how the year 2014 has been I will make two strategic improvements in 2015:

1. I will create a tournament calendar, ensuring that it will consist of smaller tournaments, as well couple of bigger ones. Also I will make sure that there are plenty of games outside of Finland.

2. I will get a “fan club” who will support me to go to tournaments, so I will have more pressure to improve and report my games.
More about the plans for 2015 coming up!

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience

From Progress To New Challenges

Friday 12/12/14 time 12:45 PM - PokerHelena

It's always great to notice that there has been significant progress in your play. That just happened last week when I played a weekly tournament in a local casino. It went all so well. I managed to gather three times of average stack during the first 45 minutes and used my big stack position to bully around. I felt like the poker queen of the day.

However, this led to the fact that I made it further in the tournament than I have ever made it before. And as I have never got that far before I have never also needed to face the new kind of challenges you get at the end of a tournament.

As the blinds increased quickly and the stacks became relatively small compared to the blinds I was not sure anymore what my strategy should be. Most of the players at the table, including me, had 13-17 big blinds, so not much to play with. It felt like all you needed was one wrong move and you were out of the game. The wrong move came quickly, so I left the table on the 17th position out of 59 players. Now I know what to work on.

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, strategy

Championship vs Ten Million Dollars

Monday 12/8/14 time 12:06 PM - PokerHelena

When people asked Martin Jacobson after he won the WSOP main event championship how it feels to have won 10 million dollars or what he's going to do with the money, his answer was pretty much "I don't know, I haven't thought about it". He said that he cared more about the title itself than the money. People found it difficult to believe. I don't and here's why.

I think some people get too stuck in the money aspect of poker. Poker is a game, some call it a sport. You have to play it for the love of the game. If you ask any other champion, for example Usain Bolt, if they value the title or money that comes with it what do you expect them to say?

The same way as you don't expect Usain Bolt to think at the starting line "I have to get to the finish line first, so that I would get the prize money and sponorship deals" you shouldn't expect that a poker player goes to a tournament poker table with only prize money in his mind. He wants to play well. He wants to be the best. He wants to become the champion.


The Chip To Hang On To

Friday 12/5/14 time 1:56 PM - PokerHelena

Just couple of days after I watched the WSOP final table and Martin Jacobson's magnificent victory I found this necklace from a Christmas market sale. It has an old chip found from a flee market hanging on a long chain.

So now I have it to remind me to keep focus at the table and always give my best (which is easier said than done after several hours of non-stop play). It has worked so far, as my first two games with the chip has been pretty successful ;)


Leave a comment.

Martin Jacobson Is My New Poker Hero

Saturday 11/29/14 time 8:06 PM

After watching hours of World Series of Poker main event final table and witnessing Martin Jacobson to be the first Swedish to win the championship I'm just so happy for the poker world. Besides the fact that he won the tournament I think he's the perfect ambassador for the game and great role model for beginners like me.

Here are just few things that I really like about his approach to poker.


1. Preparation is the key

If you know that poker is mostly a game of skill then why wouldn't you develop that skill before you enter the world's most prestigious tournament final table?

Martin did just that - not only he played poker during the few months before the final table, he also simulated the exact final table, practiced different forms of play (e.g heads-up, which he felt was his weak side) and involved tens of poker players to get advice and coaching. He talks quite a lot about his preparation in this PokerNews podcast.

I super like his thorough preparation, giving himself the highest chances to be successul that was possible.

2. Persistence and patients take you far

I have personally felt difficult to come out from extreme low stack situations after I have lost big hands. I have even become to think that it is impossible. Martin just proved that you can do it and go from just few bing blind stacks to win the whole tournament.

I really admire his way to push it through, stay patient and being able to stay focused and persistent. I learned a lot from the way he did it and will surely use that inspiration next time I'm sitting with my short stack in a tournament.

3. Control over physical and mental health

Poker is a game that requires a lot of mental toughness and concentration. It's also well known fact that your physical condition influences your mental health a lot.

That's why I admire that Martin showed that he takes his physical and mental preparation seriously. Healthy food, yoga and meditation were part of his routines, which I think eventually had a big role in him making it until the end.

4. Concentrate on what you're good at

I have been slightly worried that I have been playing mostly texas no limit hold'em  tournaments. I have played cash games once in a while, but haven't like them as much (as I have stated pretty firmly already before). Also I have never played Omaha or any other form of poker.

What encouraged me is that Martin was called several times as "no limit hold'em tournaments specialist", as that's what he has been concentrating on and he doesn't play anything else. So you can concentrate on one game and become successful in it!

Additionally to those poker related approaches I also liked that he looked for a non poker related sponsor for the final table. That's exactly what I would have done. Poker world is interested also in other things than poker, so that was brilliant move.

So I'm really happen Martin Jacobson won the title and it definitely gave me a push to continue (although it hasn't been going too great lately). Well done Martin!

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy, tournaments

How To Lose All Your Chips In 10 Minutes

Sunday 11/16/14 time 12:43 AM - PokerHelena

I have always liked to play tournaments rather than cash games. However, once in a while it's good to try out the cash as well. Pitty that it never ends too well though.

Latest cash game became very short for me. After only about 10 minutes I got into my first real hand with an opponent who previously showed over the board aggression and bluffing. It didn't really scare me that he was very aggressive with me as well. So when he put me all in I didn't hesitate too much.

I flopped a straight with ace high. Unfortunately he had flopped a flush with some of the "not so premium cards". Premium or not, flush is a flush. And I was flushed.

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience

Big Stack Meltdown Just Became A Reality

Friday 10/10/14 time 10:29 PM - PokerHelena

I played an online satellite game for a live tournament recently. For the first time I felt that everything was going as it was supposed to. I was focused, I followed the players, I used the position, took moderate risks that payed off and ran decently good. After the first 30 minutes I had 4-5 times of the average stack and it lasted for few more hours.

And then...

Apparently you only need one hand to screw up everything. So I became too confident and when I got A-K in my hand it really made me miserable. I hit the ace on the turn, but in my blindness didn't even think that my opponent could have hit something better already before the turn.

Looking at the play now it makes a lot of sense - all the signs were there that I should have been careful. But nope - I was just too bloody confident with my big stack.

From the 2nd position I dropped down to 15th. From 15th position I dropped out. It only took few minutes to ruin few hours of great play.

It was couple of days later when I noticed this article on PokerNews about how to play big stacks at the beginning and middle stage of a tournament. I wish I had read it already beforehand. Great reminder!

I guess it had to happen one day?

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, strategy

I Look Vulnerable

Saturday 9/27/14 time 4:38 PM - PokerHelena

I went to play poker together with my brother for the first time in a casino. It was exciting experience, as he had not played in casino before due to his young age, although has been playing poker for years.

We played a weekly no limit tournament, which had around 50 participants. And by chance we were assigned to the same table. So we had the great opportunity to observe each other.

At the same time I have to say that it was annoying to play at the same table with him, as we have been talking about our strategies before and, although we didn't have any game agreement, some people at the table might not be happy with this kind of situation.

My brother played good aggressive poker at the beginning, but then lost his charm when his big bluff was paid. I played quite passively and poor poker, I have to admit. I don't know if it was because of my brother at the table or something else (excuses, excuses!), but I felt constantly distracted and couldn't get good chances with my bad run of cards, as the table was pretty aggressive.

So for the record, I dropped out first and he followed me only 10 minutes later. So we left with empty hands couple of hours into the game. It was probably my worst tournament result so far. But it's ok, because after the game we went to the casino bar and gave feedback to each other's game.

So according to my brother I looked somewhat vulnerable. Firstly, he has the stereotype of women being more vulnerable at poker table and it's doubled by my passive play in an aggressive table.

He has a good point. I'm not as aggressive as I should be. I should play more hands more decisively. There have been times when I have used that table image before pretty successfully when I have great cards in my hand. But you know, mostly you are not served with pair of aces, kings of queens. So have to think through my game plan for the next one!

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience

Psych It To Make It

Sunday 9/7/14 time 12:31 AM - PokerHelena

During the past few weeks I have been participating in an online psychology course of social psychology. I had many reasons to participate in the course, but I definitely hoped to learn something I can use for poker.

Here are just couple of things I learned.

When people gable they often get illusion of control. You feel everything's under your control when things go well, even when things go in your way by pure chance. Poker players have to accept that chance has a part in the game. However, it harms you to believe that chance will always be on your side. It won't. And the easier it is for you to accept it the easier it is for you to estimate the risks of every move and recover from bad beats.

Many players, especially beginners, tend to give credit to themselves for the wins, but blame bad luck for their losses. So you can often hear "wow, you are having some good luck today" type of comments after you win a hand. Rarely people admit that their opponent played a hand well. As I heard this quite often it helps me not to take those "accusations" too seriously, but at the same time remind myself that sometimes I do get lucky as well.

Aggression increases aggression. Although people don't always want to admit it, when someone behaves aggressively towards them they get aggressive as well. In poker aggressiveness does not mean physical aggression. However, you can have an aggressive play and even have slightly aggressive table talk in controlled way at right times, which will hopefully make the opponent make mistakes.

Emotions and feelings can change quite a lot during one game, at least for me it's quite a rollercoaster at times. I've definitely learned to handle the emotions better during the past months, but now I have also learned couple of ways to emotionally challenge my opponents. Can't wait for the next live games!

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

Monthly Report: Vacation Play

Tuesday 8/26/14 time 9:36 PM - PokerHelena

The summer vacation was very good for my poker progress. Not only I had more time to play I was also more relaxed when playing and had much better results.

July was the first month I was on positive side with my online bankroll. By the end of the month I had 6 times more money on my PokerStars account than I had at the beginning of the month. And it felt great!

However, the reality hit when the vacation ended and I went back to work. I have already lost most of it and now trying to figure out how to balance my play so that I can continue the success I had in July.

Another great thing that happened towards the end of my vacation was a tournament in Tallinn. It was 30€ rebuy tournament, so the entrance level was very low. The starting stacks were big and levels fairly long, so it gave some time to play without any rush.

I was doing pretty well, however didn't leave any cash in my pockets. I was 12th out of around 50 players. It's the best result so far, so I'm very happy. I'm even more happier about the game I played. After the nervousness during the first hour I calmed down and made some pretty good moves (at least I'd like to think like that :)).

Opponents at the table were very different, ranging from regulars to tourists, so it was interesting to observe the different player styles and practice my own table image. It was a lot of fun and I should definitely get back there!

So what's next? I want to continue playing live games as much as I can. There will be some interesting tournaments that I want to participate in during the fall, so I will not be bored. I'm aiming to get some cash from a tournament by the end of this year, so I still have some work to do.

Leave a comment. Keywords: report

Bankroll Management? What's that?

Wednesday 8/13/14 time 10:25 PM - PokerHelena

Although I have been playing online poker for a year now I haven't thought so much about bankroll management. That's until my brother (who has been playing poker since he was... ummm... 13?) checked my PokerStars account and told me to get to lower stakes in cash game.

Bankroll management sounds like a simple concept - play on the right level compared to the bankroll you have to make you don't go broke. However, I can understand all of the people who are frustrated because they play hours and hours on super low levels to build their bankroll.

At the same time it just proves that poker players are not reckless gamblers who simply throw their earnings to PokerStars account and think they will win a huge jackpot. It's calculated play, ensuring that you're safe with the bankroll and building it little by little. Sounds boring, but that will ensure the fun part later on.

Soooo... I did decrease the stakes and have been trying to build it up little by little. July was the first month online that was profitable, so I must be doing something right!

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

Poker With A View

Thursday 7/24/14 time 9:43 AM - PokerHelena

Great thing about poker (besides the game itself) is that you can play it from almost anywhere. All you need is a computer with an internet connection. And if you're interested in live poker then at least in Europe you can play it in almost every city.

So as I'm spending my summer vacation I can enjoy peaceful surroundings, as well as win some sit&go tournaments at the same time. Sounds great to me!


1 comment .

Power Of Reraises

Wednesday 7/16/14 - PokerHelena

Making reraises hasn't been really part of my play before. As mentioned lately I didn't even know how to bet properly until recently. However, now I have learned that throwing in a good sized reraise can work superbly in right situations.

What's the reason I have been afraid of reraises so far? It's just super scary to through in so many chips into a pot! For reraise to be a good one it apparently should be at least 2,5 times of the previous bet to induce a fold. Risking with that many chips sounds crazy even when having good cards in hand. As conservative player it's a very aggressive move.

Anyways, now that I'm getting better in reraising I'm just trying not to overuse it, as this might have an opposite effect. Happy reraising!

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

Going Crazy With Small Pocket Pairs

Monday 7/14/14 time 7:05 PM - PokerHelena

I have played quite a lot online lately with increasing success, which is awesome. One thing astonishes me, however. I'm surprised how many players are willing to play their small pocket pairs until the end through bets, calls and reraises. I haven't found any reasonable explanation to it so far and, as I have uncovered such players quite frequently lately, this play can't be very profitable.

Just to bring an example, you have pocket fours in a full table in early position. I have seen a bold raise by the player and the raise was called. Flop comes with all higher cards than four. With few players in the pot, someone makes a decent bet, another player reraises it. I think at this point it's kind of obvious that someone flopped something. But the pocket four player just calls everything (perhaps waiting for a set in later streets? Pot odds didn't quite suggest that). He/she lost a lot. And plenty of this kind of examples piled up after that from other players.

Pocket pairs, no matter how small they are, seem like giant hands for some players. I haven't quite seen any proof for that. If anyone knows what I don't please let me know :)

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

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