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The Inside Straight

by CP The Inside Straight Authors |  Published: Jun 01, 2006


The Circuit

Tips From 'The Circuit''s hit radio show The Circuit brings you updates, interviews, and strategy from the biggest names in poker, and broadcasts from all World Poker Tour events.

The following is a discussion between co-host Mike Matusow and guest David Williams on early-levels tournament strategy, as broadcast on The Circuit from the L.A. Poker Classic:

Mike Matusow: I've been told, and have always played like this, that until the antes get in the pot, you should play snugger than a rug. And that's the truth.

David Williams: That's something that I follow.

MM: Mike Sexton will tell you that Stu Ungar never played a pot, never played a hand, until the antes went in there. So, I always stuck with what Mike Sexton told me.

DW: Yesterday, Tuan Le was at my table. During the first level, he found a way to dust off his $20,000 (starting stack). He was trying to raise every pot when there was what, $75 in the middle?

MM: $75 in the middle and he has $20,000 in chips.

DW: And he was raising every hand. "Raise! Raise! Raise!" He was like, "Ha, I play every hand," and all of a sudden, he was broke in the first level. For what? To try to win $75? When you wait for the antes, you can pick up some real money.

MM: Right. So my advice to everybody out there is: Until the antes get in there and you can start playing a little poker, just play solid and tight and try to wait on some cards and hope they come your way.

For this and all archived "The Circuit" shows, go to

Tune in to The Circuit and put it to work for your game.

Raymond Charles Clark has …

Hey, Guys:

I just wanted to drop you guys a line to say that your show is a great learning tool. I learned so much in the conversation between Daniel and Mike. It's nice to see a couple of "old-timers" (I just read Daniel's blog) giving everyone the value of their years of experience. These shows, and the audio from the final table that I downloaded, have helped immensely in understanding the mind of a professional poker player.

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Shark Attack by Roy Rounder

Who is Roy Rounder?

Hi, my name is Roy Rounder. Welcome to my new column "Shark Attack." Here, you'll discover simple, step-by-step tactics and techniques for winning at no-limit Texas hold'em – both in live games and online.

I've been an "underground" professional poker player for several years, and with the popularity of poker right now, making a "surgeon's income" at this game is almost too easy.

Read my column to learn the fundamentals of how I do it – and how you can, too, at any stakes, anywhere. Remember, you don't have to be a "pro" to be a shark!

You also can sign up for Roy Rounder's free e-mail tips newsletter at

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How to Play Tight-Aggressive
By Roy Rounder

There are four main poker-playing "styles":

1. Loose-Passive

2. Loose-Aggressive

3. Tight-Passive

4. Tight-Aggressive

The first part of each style refers to which hands are being played. "Loose" describes someone who plays a wide variety of hands. "Tight" describes someone who is more selective and plays only good hands.

The second part of each style refers to betting. Someone who's "passive" often calls and doesn't raise much. An "aggressive" player makes frequent bets and raises.

In general, the most effective style is tight-aggressive. I'll discuss the reasons why in a moment. First, however, let's take a look at each style and learn the strategies for winning against them.

Loose-passive is the most "amateurish" style of play. These fish like to play a wide range of starting hands and rarely fold before the flop. They'll check-call with hands like middle pair, ace high, and low pair; hence, the nickname "calling stations."

When you spot this type of player, wait for a good hand and then bet into him consistently. Simply "milk" him for chips before the flop and after the flop, turn, and river.

Be selective when you attack. The loose-passive player might have top pair and still check-call. So, be careful.


This is the "maniac" or "manic" playing style.

A maniac can empty your pockets quickly if you don't use the proper strategy.

You must be patient and understand how to "get under the skin" of a manic player. Do not let him upset you. For instance, a maniac will often play (and raise with) bad starting hands. When he hits, no one knows what to put him on – which is part of the reason he's so dangerous.

Let's say a maniac calls a preflop raise with 4-2 offsuit and the flop comes A-5-3. Your buddy Jerry is holding A-K, so he thinks he has the best hand. The turn card is a king and the river is a 10. Jerry ends up losing a ton of chips to the maniac's straight.

And then what happens is Jerry goes on tilt and starts calling all of the maniac's raises. This is how the maniac can break you. In order to beat a maniac, you must wait for a strong hand. The maniac's weakness is that he hates being raised or "bullied." Also, he easily feels "pot-committed."

When you get heads up with a maniac (and you hold a strong hand), raise him or make small bets in no-limit that entice him to bluff. Let the maniac come to you; let him make the wrong move at the wrong time and you'll take his chips – oftentimes all at once in no-limit.

Tight-passive players are fairly easy to beat. If they bet or raise, get out of there! Otherwise, you can consistently represent the flop and bluff them out of pots. Tight-passive players will often "survive" for a long time in a game because they never risk too many chips. But eventually they get "blinded to death." Use bluffs, semibluffs, and aggressive bets to take a tight-passive player's chip stack.


OK, now we're to the preferred playing style for no-limit Texas hold'em: tight-aggressive.

Tight-aggressive players choose their starting hands wisely. They rarely "limp in." Instead, they usually either fold or raise before the flop. They'll make aggressive post-flop bets if they've got a hand or if they raised preflop.

The reason a tight-aggressive style is so effective is because you risk chips only when you have a strong hand. But when you do risk chips, you risk a lot of them – so it takes only a couple of wins to build a nice stack. This playing style is often referred to as "aggressively smart" or "selective aggression."

The downside of a tight-aggressive style is that it's often easy to read. This style can often build a tight table image, and when that happens, your opponents won't give you action for your big hands.

So, how do you solve this problem?

One solution is to intentionally establish a loose table image – by carefully choosing times to play like a maniac. For example, once in a while, show a bluff – especially near the beginning of the game. Do this when you sense weakness and have good position – just as you'd do with any good bluff.

Let's say that you pick up the 8club 7club on the button and three players limp in. You raise four times the big blind and everyone folds. That's when you flip over your suited connectors and say, "C'mon, guys, I know someone had my eight high beat." A move like this is usually enough – depending on the table – to get you action for your big hands. That way, when you pick up K-K on the button a bit later and make the same preflop raise of four times the big blind, you'll get a caller or two.

A huge advantage of playing tight-aggressive poker is that many of your opponents won't distinguish between loose and aggressive. As discussed, "loose" is related to which hands you'll play, and "aggressive" is related to betting.

If you raise aggressively with strong hands and then mix it up with the occasional well-timed bluff, you'll be able to throw your opponents off and keep them guessing every step of the way.

Of course, there are many "degrees" in between these four main playing styles.

Even though you should use tight-aggressive as your main style, you must be able to "shift gears" and mix up your approach throughout the game; that way, you won't become predictable.

More importantly, you must learn when to shift gears, how to vary your playing style, and special "tricks" you can use to fool your opponents without risking too many chips.

When you learn skills like these, you'll be able to consistently win at Texas hold'em – at virtually any level – and immediately increase your "poker profits."

To learn more tips and strategies, check out

Mike: When playing limit Omaha and hold'em, if I am consistently averaging a profit of two to three big blinds per hour over a pretty good length of time, is it a good indicator that it's time to move up to the next level (bankroll allowing, of course)? Do you have any other tips about when to "move on up to the Eastside"? Thanks for the advice.

That's a great question, and not just because of the reference to The Jeffersons!

"Earning average" has never been a major factor in my decision to move up in levels, mostly because comparing low-limit games to middle-limit games is like comparing apples to oranges. At a $3-$6 hold'em table, success often comes down to catching cards while playing tighter poker than your opponents. You are going to need additional skills to succeed in $10-$20 games, where you need to be able to sniff out bluffs against smarter, trickier competition.

In other words, don't move up just because you are beating the game; move up when your bankroll and skill set allow it, and when you can find a game with players you can read.

You can pay more attention to your results as you look to move up through the middle limits into the higher limits; you want to be winning consistently, feeling confident, and building a bankroll that enables you to play in a comfort zone. There are other significant factors to consider, however: Who is in the game? Are the pots big enough and the players loose enough for you to make money? It's better to stay in a $30-$60 game that you are drilling than to move up to an $80-$160 game in which you are eking out a small profit. Don't move up because your ego tells you that you should be playing a bigger game; move up when it's a good real-money decision!

Matt: I do well in single-table sit-and-gos, and they seem to be great practice, but I was wondering if they can be played for long-term profit?

Absolutely! I built my initial online bankroll by playing sit-and-gos. Yes, they are also good for practice, but there shouldn't be any distinction between the two: You are always practicing, even when you are playing for profit. If you can find a sit-and-go that you like, put in the hours.

Dubbeemin: I have noticed a strategic decision that comes up frequently in sit-and-gos and other tournaments with blind structures that go up quickly: When I am able to build a big stack, I am looking for spots to pick up the blinds without a contest, sometimes – if my opponents are tight or I have otherwise managed to maintain steady control of the table – regardless of what I am holding. What should I do when someone "plays back at me," moving all in when I have raised with a weak or even a moderate-strength hand? I am often getting good pot odds – say, 2-to-1 or more – to call the reraise, but calling and losing will take away my ability to continue to steal blinds. What is the correct play?

You've hit upon the primary difference between cash-game and tournament strategy: Preserving power in a tournament can often be more important than doing something just because you have the right odds to do it. If calling and losing means a loss in your ability to steal in a future situation, don't do it. You're not only risking a potential loss in power, but if you call with junk – for everyone to see – you're likely going to face an even more significant loss in the respect department. It's going to be much easier for people to play back against you when they know that you are pushing with junk!

It's OK to fold when opponents push back at you. Eventually, someone will do it when you have the goods, and you can punish him accordingly. If too many people are pushing back at you, you may not have the "control" over the table that you thought you did. Then, it's time to readjust your strategy! spade