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.

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Mastering The End Game

Tuesday 7/8/14 - PokerHelena

I'm currently reading the Harrington's second book about the end game and oh boy how happy I am for doing that!

One of the biggest problems I have had in my game so far is that I get stuck at some point in a tournament and don't know how to get out of there without blinds eating me. I knew that at some point I had to go all in, but I had no idea when was the good time for that nor which cards were reasonable enough for that.

Super useful advice on the zones of the game

I have never read about the different zones before and now that I have it makes perfect sense. In fact I almost feel silly that I have played so far without understanding that kind of basics. Now that I do my game has improved dramatically.

I'm also super astonished about how those things work. Some of the advice feels so much against my nature, but following it nevertheless makes all the difference. I have also started noticing how many small stakes players there are that don't have any idea how to do it, which is naturally better for me.

So the learning continues and I'm excited to go to the next live tournament to practice the new skills.

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Hands Up In Heads-Up

Friday 4/18/14 time 4:25 PM - PokerHelena

Recently I have discovered heads-up games for myself. At first they went really well, but then I started losing. I have no idea why.

Nevertheless, I think heads-up games have helped me to learn and confirm few things:

1. I've learned to notice player's style.

Whereas I have earlier said that I'm still having difficulties to remember the past moves and styles of every player in full tables then in heads-up it's easy - there is only one player to follow. This has given me some good practice in using the player's style against them.

2. The less players you have the smaller chance there is they hit the board.

If you know that most likely your opponent was not helped by the flop then what do you do? You try to show that it sure helped you. It works until they figure out your playing patterns.

3. You're always in the game.

You always pay, so every decision is important. It's a torture for me, as I have been trying to figure out what to do when I constantly get horrible cards in my hands. Heads-up has been a great way to practice that.

My first serious heads-up was couple of months ago. It was a tournament and I knew that I had a chance to get to the heads-up stage. As I didn't know anything about how to play in heads-up I quickly googled for some basic tips. And they carried me pretty far, as I'm surprised how many of my opponents now make some of the basic mistakes.

Now I need to level up my heads-up play. And as I have finished Harrington's first book it's time to get to the second one that also covers the heads-up game. Are there any other great resources I could use to learn the game?

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Theory vs Practice

Sunday 3/16/14 time 1:57 PM - PokerHelena

I have almost finished Harrington's first book on Texas Hold 'Em. I find the examples with his analyses extremely helpful. However, I recognize few challenges that I face when following his advice:

1. It's so much easier to analyze the hands when someone breaks it down to you - what's your position, what are the stacks, raises, reraises and pot in each moment. It's completely different story when you sit at the table and have to make those notes in your head yourself.

Having said that, it has certainly made me think in the right direction. I might be still slow in recognizing the pot size and stack sizes, but I'm getting there slowly.

2. As Harrington talks about the hands that you should get into a pot with I'm still facing the same problem as I did before - what if I don't get any of those hands? Like... at all? Am I just not supposed to play and wait until blinds eat me?

In my last tournament game I was constantly facing cards that I shouldn't have had to play with according to Harrington. I was the most conservative player at the table. Finally I thought I should loosen it up and played few semi ok hands. Some hands worked out mainly because of my conservative reputation, I think. But I felt quite unskilled for this kind of situations and eventually it didn't go very well. Finally I got my best hand A-K, however my opponent showed A-A and won the pot.

So I'm still looking forward to learn to play with mediocre and worse hands. After all, you don't have much time in a tournament to wait for the high pairs to show up.

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Getting Coached By Harrington

Sunday 3/2/14 time 5:01 PM - PokerHelena

As I previously mentioned I didn't understand how much one can actually learn about poker by reading books. The game seems quite straight forward, so I guess you can't just realize at the beginning of how much information you're actually missing.

I've luckily passed that stage now. After I read the first book "52 great poker tips" by Lou Krieger I was convinced that I need to read more. That was just a scratch of the surface.

So my new book "Harrington On Hold 'em" arrived and I'm super excited. I think everyone more serious with poker has read that book. And I'm not surprised. I have only read the first paragraph and I'm so amazed about how information packed it is. Very easy to read, yet spot on examples and very well explained for a beginner player like me.


I also decided that I have to get more live game experiences, so I signed up for a 40 € tournament in the casino in couple of days. So my next report will be from there - will I survive or crash in my first casino tournament experience?

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Boring Poker Rules!

Wednesday 2/12/14 time 11:37 PM - PokerHelena

Couple of months ago I bought my first poker book "52 great poker tips" by Lou Krieger. Until that time I was thinking that I don't need any poker books, because I can improve my skills only by playing. I was so wrong. The book is pretty good collection of all the basics of poker, as well as full of great basic advice.


So what did I learn from the book? Boring poker rules! Why boring? Because based on this book the best poker players play slow and boring poker to get the best results. The game shouldn't be full of action on every hand, but critically selecting the hands to play.

Based on my new knowledge few things are important:

1. You have to be a tight player, which means you play only with super good cards. This naturally means that you don't play as many cards and most of the time you're staring at other people playing (or, khmm, learning from their play).

I have to be honest, my results probably tripled after taking this advice into use. I did get one problem though - the book never told me what to do when I don't get any of those good cards in a tournament. So I guess the next lesson is to learn to bluff big time.

2. Fold more. 70% of cards are clear after the flop, so the chances you'll get a better hand on turn and river is quite small. It's amazing how much people are willing to pay just to see one more card. Mostly it's not worth it.

First I felt that I was only losing chips with it. But as the common advice says "Saving money is as good as winning money".

3. Position is everything. When you're one of the first ones to act be very critical about your cards.

I was not very convinced about this one at first. I felt I was throwing away many good cards. However, after I started following my game more I realized that it was always easier to win money from a good position.

I also realized that I like being on Big Blind (the book doesn't encourage that in any way). After all, before flop BB is the one last to act and it's easier to hide great cards.

So those were the first wisdoms I learned - basics of the basics. And it helped. So I ordered another book few days ago which I will tell you more about very soon. In a meanwhile expect my skills skyrocket during the next weeks ;).

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