Helmuth's opponent reading strategy - 5 animal types
I've won 'big' a fair share of times playing poker, but for me big never seems big enough. My greatest weakness I think is that I have generally found it difficult to keep the momentum of building the money up from a strong position afterwards and feel it is my god given right to continue to win huge pots, then get knocked of my perch pretty quick. Has anyone else suffered the same fate?
Usually when I build up a decent bankroll - say over £120-170 - and this has happened to me a number of times over the years, I find it difficult to push over the threshold mark of £170 and even keep the money. I don't know why, but it is almost like 170 creates some mental block that prevents me from going any further. Could it be a fear of success? I truly hope not. Can Phil Helmuth come to the rescue with his book 'Play Poker like the Pro's'?
I think that winning and losing is cyclical. You have your good spell of cards and luck and winnings, but then the downward spiral inevitably arrives. You've got to be ready for it and I think, from experience, this is a very difficult thing to do. Master this and you'll become a poker pro...and rich. You should realise that it's happening (speaking to myself now) and somehow find a way to slow your betting down so you can 'realise' your profits.
Generally the main thing I have been 'banging on' about in the blogs I've written this month ultimately comes down to one thing: keep playing tight!
As I promised, I would do a book review of Phil Helmuth's 'Play like the Pros' and this fits in perfectly with this theme. From the start of his book, the 15 times WSOP champion, makes the point that it is a good idea, especially for beginners, to play especially tight. He describes how he turned his dishevelled broke student ways into a $20,000 Bankroll which helped to pay off his student loans and debts, simply by playing in the student games. He spent a lot of time dedicated to learning the game because, well, he was broke. In his book, he highlights the fact he didn't just want to play tight according to a system introduced to him by new colleague Tuli Haromy, but decided to go one step further and play 'super tight' instead. It worked.
So his 'super tight' system involves the top ten starting hands of; AA KK QQ AK JJ 1010 99 AQ 88 77
Helmouth mainly recommends this strategy for beginners, but encourages more advanced players to continue to use this too. If you are a beginner it can help you to become more comfortable playing the game and win pots. While advanced players that are losing may fall back into using this system. As part of pre flop play, Helmuth first discusses 5 animal types of opponents that you are likely to encounter on the table, live or online and uses their template to draw up scenarios about how to play effectively;
The Jackal - a wild player who raises far too often
The mouse - tight as anything and barely plays a hand
The elephant - calling station and plays too many hands (scared of mice!)
The lion - a strong player who can vary play his or her play, rather than just playing the top ten hands
The Eagle - a Poker pro like none other than Mr. Helmuth himself. One thing he certainly doesn't lack is self-confidence, self-love and a strong sense of humour which is prevalent in the book, making it a very enjoyable read. The Eagle is the master poker player, according to Helmuth.
As a slightly more advanced player myself these days, I'm still more than comfortable about being re-introduced to the basics by a poker pro. I think that at any time you believe you don't need to keep learning, you'll be in trouble.
Shining the poker torch: How to play QQ and JJ
In the book, Helmuth argues that you should play QQ aggressively before the flop because it is in the top 4 hands in poker. While I agree that lower paired hands should be played much more conservatively if a strong opponent re-raises or bets big before the flop, from my experience it is also better to move with caution when holding specifically QQ as well...most of the time. I have found, on the whole that when I play too aggressively with QQ and JJ hands from any position, most in particular in earlier positions, it usually gets me in to trouble. When I have played both these hands much more conservatively before the flop and then have a look at the flop when it comes to then act - hopefully flopping a set, the dream scenario, a lot of times however the flops are marginal and usually present a scary A or K. So what do we do?
Playing big hands on marginal flops
On the flip side, don't always fold if an A comes up if you have KK or A or a K when you have QQ. See what your opponent does first and go by your instinct, sometimes fold, sometimes call to the turn and perhaps the river, or even re-raise to see what they do! I've definitely had success with this strategy in the past even though it can be a little scary with a scary board sometimes! The A hits the flop 30% of the time as Helmuth states in the first part of the book.
Altogether, Helmuth sums up playing big hands on marginal flops perfectly in page 41 of Play Poker Like the Pro's; 'I've been telling you to ram and jam (raise and re raise) with my top ten hands before the flop, but what happens when you've made it four bets to go with 10-10 and the flop comes 2-Q-K? This situation is a good bit trickier than one where you make it four bets to go with 10-10 and the flop comes 10-7-2 (you have flopped the best possible hand in this case): there just jam it:'
'You'll be able to handle the dream flops, or even the really terrible flops, but what do you do when you're heavily involved in a hand pre flop but then you have what is a marginal flop? What you do is raise your opponents as if you had hit the flop perfectly, and then watch to see how they react to your raises. If you get the strong impression that you're beaten, on the basis of your opponents' reaction to your raises then fold, but if you're pretty sure you still have the best hand, then keep on betting and calling.'
Overall, Helmuth's book is full of really useful tips and techniques like the one above and explains the trickier details on how to play after the flop well in a down to earth, all inclusive and outright funny way by looking at many different situations to be found in poker against the 5 animal type players. It is designed to relate to the reader on the basis that they might be a beginner. However this book is very useful for a more advanced player aswell as they definitely will be reminded of a thing or two that may have been forgotten on the way and could help to make a good deal of money in the future. This book is well worth a read and for keeping as a useful resource to turn to when in doubt about poker game plays in many different scenarios. Overall rating 8/10
Good luck at the tables all - Maroonfish.