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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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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

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.

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy, books

Folding A Monster Hand

Tuesday 5/27/14 time 10:50 PM - PokerHelena

How willing are you to fold your pocket aces? How about pocket kings or queens? What if you have a straight? Or flush?

Recently I have had many interesting game situations where I have a great hand, but my opponent has it better. In most of the cases I have noticed a change in the way the person played the hand - it has become more confident and aggressive.

But damn it's difficult to fold that straight, even when my gut feeling says that the opponent has flush. It was even difficult for me to fold my pocket kings when I suspected that my opponent had aces (and he did!).

You finally have a great hand and you want to believe into the hand so much! You want to ignore the signs from your opponent that he has a better hand. And eventually - what if he doesn't have a better hand? Perhaps he just has a lower pair and thinks he has got you, which makes him so confident about the game.

One positive thing in all of this is that I have started noticing the difference in how people play when they have different kinds of cards. Even when I don't guess the bad beats every time I like what my gut has started to tell me about the different situations.

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

From Marathon To Poker

Tuesday 5/13/14 time 8:05 PM - PokerHelena

For the past few years I have had a goal to run at least one half marathon per year. It has been a good kick to go out running. One year I even stretched myself to run a full marathon, which was a very awesome experience! When I started playing poker I read from few places that poker tournament is like a marathon. But I didn't quite get it before I started playing more frequently.

You have to think about the whole distance

If I started running a marathon like it was 100m I wouldn't be able to get very far. I have to consider how fast I can run each km so that I have enough strength to go until the finish line.

I could throw all in with every single hand I get, but pretty soon I would be out of the game. It's about growing your stack steadily throughout the game, not doubling up or losing everything in every single hand.

Unexpected things do happen

Weather is unpredictable and might mess up all your plans. Or your leg starts cramping. Or you have a sudden urge to visit the toilet because energy drink has messed up your stomach. You can't plan everything.

No matter how good you are with poker you can't plan everything - unexpected things happen and you just have to take it as it is and fight your way out.

But you can learn and plan

Almost everyone knows how to run... on a bus. Running a marathon is just a little bit more complicated - there is only certain amount of energy that your body can take. But you can learn how to keep your body going and plan ahead how you will get to the finish line.

Naturally also in poker you can plan ahead - what's your strategy, who are the players, what is the structure of the tournament etc. It would be quite stupid not to plan ahead.

You might feel desperate at times but eventually you're overjoyed when you cross the finish line

When tough times come you start thinking how you ended up in this position in the first place. But the truth is you have one option and one option only - make the best out of this position and go on. And nothing can be compared to the feeling when you cross the finish line. I don't think any poker player can object with that.

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy

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?

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy, books

Fatal Ace And Ten

Tuesday 4/1/14 time 10:29 PM - PokerHelena

As Mr Harrington promotes tight-aggressive play he has a strong opinion on which cards you should get into a pot with. To my surprise Ace-Ten is not a hand to get into a play with from an early position. In fact, he stresses on it quite few times in his first book.

Today I played a live tournament in a casino for 2nd time and A-T became the fatal hand for me.

Ace - Ten, a.k.a The Huge Loss

I was the first to act. I checked my cards and saw A-10. I would have played it before, but this time I acknowledged the situation and gracefully threw away the cards. It was painful. However, the pain was not even nearly as big as it was couple of minutes later.

Tight player on the button raised and small blind called, whereas big blind folded. So there were two players in the hand. The board brought x-10-x (x being some small and meaningless cards that I don't even remember anymore). That's when I felt for the first time that perhaps throwing away the A-10 was a mistake.

There was a raise and a call, so 4th card was dealt and it was... tadaa... another ten! One player went all in, another one called. At this point I was almost crying. None of them had tens.

As I already saw that my A-10 would have won the hand, the 5th street brought and ace. I would have had full house. Ouch.

I know that the chances were small for this to happen. I know that as I was the first one to act there was possibility that a bunch of people with raise, reraise and go all in after me. However, this kind of losses are just soooo painful.

Ace - Ten, a.k.a A Little Bit Smaller Loss

Not long after the big loss I got A-T in my hands again. And again I was in early position. I thought "The biggest mistake I can make is to think based on my previous experience that it's correct to play A-10 from early position". So again I threw the cards away.

This time the board ran full of small cars, 10 being the highest card and pot was taken with Ace high.

True, not that clear case, but it also didn't give me back my much needed confidence.

Ace - Ten, a.k.a The Final Crush

When blinds increased and my stack started getting smaller I became to the "all or nothing" point. For quite some time I had to settle for nothing, as my cards or situations were not in my favor.

Eventually I thought I had a good chance. I was in the middle position, nobody had entered the pot before me, I looked at my cards and voilá - I had A-10 in my hand. I can't say I wasn't hesitant, but I thought this was my chance to double up (or at least steal the blinds) before the blinds would catch up with me.

Everone folded until the small blind who after a pause decided to call. When he showed 2-5 I first thought "What a hell was he thinking?" and then "I think I'm back in the game".

But oh boy how wrong I was. The board showed two fives and I was out of the game on 21st position out of 47 players.

Ace - Ten is a difficult pair of cards to play. Based on the latest experience I will definitely give this hand some more thought in the future.

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, strategy

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.

Leave a comment. Keywords: strategy, books

What Would Harrington Do?

Wednesday 3/5/14 time 10:53 PM - PokerHelena

Yesterday I played my first tournament for real money in casino. It was also the first game I played after I started reading Harrington's wisdom on poker. The first chapters provided so much good insight that I was sure I could use them immediately in practice.

At the beginning of the book Harrington mentioned 11 basic things that you need to consider when deciding if you should play a hand or not. I'm pretty good in following some of the things and taking them in consideration (e.g. the position, stack sizes, number of players at the table). However, I have had hard time profiling the players and adjusting my play based on that. The game at the casino was perfect to practice that - I didn't know any of the players beforehand and players in the table changed.

There were quite many loose/aggressive players in my table. Unfortunately all of them were to my left, so I felt I was in quite uncomfortable position and most certainly felt their presence. I remembered Harrington's advice "Against aggressive players play fewer hands more decisively". However, it didn't seem to work. Every time I had a good hand they never hit the table and aggressive players went out of their way to make me suffer.

It was a slow death on a poker table. After I lost with pretty good hands I was afraid to play any "just good" hands. The problem was that I never got any great hands. The only pair I got was deuces. The best hand I received was the last one I played in the game - AK off suit. I was pretty happy when an ace hit the table. Unfortunately my opponent had AA (see? Pair of aces don't always lose, as it has happened to be lately). I finished as 24th out of 58 players.

I was a bit disappointed, as I felt that I didn't play my best. However, I did learn a lot about player profiling and will definitely put the experience in use in the next game. Bring it on!

Leave a comment. Keywords: experience, strategy

Pair Of Aces Are So Overrated

Wednesday 2/26/14 time 10:27 PM - PokerHelena

I think I have lost with pair of aces more than I have won with pair of aces. That's why I don't understand why players are so hyped about pair of aces.

Let's face it, pair of aces is exactly what it sounds - a pair that happens to be aces. Unless you will get a flop to support your aces it's quite useless.

If anyone has two pairs (which happened to my opponent few weeks ago) you lose. If anyone has trips (which happened to my opponent today) you lose. Even worse - straight, flush and full house are all above a simple ace pair. The only options that are worse than pair of aces are another pairs and well... having nothing. That doesn't sound too encouraging.

Revelations of a rookie player continue...

1 comment . Keywords: strategy

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 ;).

Leave a comment. Keywords: books, strategy