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Crushing Live Poker With Twitter

by Bart Hanson |  Published: Sep 04, 2013

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August 6 – NLH isn’t a battle of the blinds it’s a battle for stacks

One of the most important things that has changed over the last ten years in no-limit cash games is the capped buy-in nature of smaller tables. Before the Moneymaker Effect, no-limit used to truly be no-limit, no matter what the blinds were, you could buy in for any amount. However, a buy-in of more than 100 big blinds was considered big, and if you had 200-300 big blinds, you would have the table covered by a ton. Nowadays, in unrestricted buy-in games, 200 big blind buy-ins are almost standard.

When no-limit as a cash game first started developing serious popularity after 2003, casinos realized that the best way to continue a steady rake and to make sure that players would not get annihilated was to institute capped, restricted buy-in structures. These games were way more restricted than what you see today. I remember at the Commerce Casino, they had $2-$3 blind ($100 buy-in), $2-$5 ($200 buy-in) and $5-$10 ($400 buy-in). By today’s standards, these rules were ridiculously short. And now, more than ever, we see the trend of the capped buy-in games becoming deeper and deeper. Currently, in a lot of areas, $5 big blind games allow you to buy in for $1,000 and, in some places, even $1,500. The minimum cap that you will see now is $500.

So how do these new buy-in rules change the nature of the game? Well, it is my contention that no-limit as a cash game is way more about stack depth than it is about blind size. At my home casino, the Bicycle Casino, in Los Angeles, I routinely play in a $5-$5 ($1,000 cap) game instead of the $5-$10 unrestricted buy-in game if I think that the lineup and stack sizes are right. If I know that a guy is not capable of folding an overpair in a certain spot, would I rather play with him $2,000 deep at $5-$5, or $700 deep at $5-$10? If he is not going to fold, I want to get him in the game where he has the most money in front of him, and not concentrate on the blind size. And commonly, nowadays, you see a lot of the fishier players buy in shorter in the bigger-blind games, but deeper in a smaller-blinded game. It may have to do with them thinking that they can run over the table, that the game looks smaller, or perhaps, most importantly, that they realize that they are playing against weaker competition at the “lower stakes.”

The point is that now, as recreational players get better and better, game selection is more important. And you want to find the tables with deep money where people will make the most mistakes. That is, often times, at the lower levels. I remember back in 2008 when they changed the cap on the $5-$10 game at the Commerce from a $400 max buy-in to a $500-$1,500 buy-in, the tables where absolute gold mines. I could not believe that some of the so-called “live pros” would not step down from $10-$20 to play $5-$10 and it had a lot to do with their egos. During that period I played $5-$10 pretty much full time and was making more than most of the $10-$20 pros. Funnily enough, it also had to do with the fact that the $5-$10 was in the “lower level” room and higher stakes players did not want to be seen playing at those stakes.

What a joke that was and still is today. Poker is a game about trying to make the most amount of money not ego. And this also works for some of the higher-stakes games as well. In my last trip to Vegas this summer, I saw guys playing $10-$20 that in the past had played $50-$100. The thing is everybody at $10-$20 was sitting with more than $6,000 and these guys had a lot of experience playing deep. Why wouldn’t they want to sit at the smaller-blinded game with weaker competition with the same amount of money in front of them? They are now doing it right.

July 27 – Knowing the monetary situation of the regulars in your game can be a huge advantage

If you have ever spent a lot of time at a live poker table, you will quickly realize that a lot of players like to gossip. And one of the most common things that is gossiped about is the financial situation of other people. Who is backing who, who’s running good, bad, about to go broke, etcetera, etcetera. Just like some other intangibles in the live poker world, we can actually use some of this information to our advantage.

If you are playing professionally or at least as a serious recreational player for profit, you will learn that even for some of the best players, their monetary situation will dictate the way that they may play hands in certain situations. The sheer fact of the matter is if someone has a larger bankroll he may be more willing to leverage bluffs or make hero calls. This might not be the case for everyone, but when someone is short on their bankroll, they tend to shy away from high-variance situations. I mean, put yourself in the spot of a poker professional whose sole income comes from playing cards. This player has had a bad run over the last few months and has seen his bankroll diminish and he barely has any living expenses saved up. Do you think that this player is going to wither under the pressure when facing a lot of heat? Most guys would, especially if they have no means of borrowing money or cannot secure financial backing for the future. It may seem a little brutal, but we should use this information to our advantage.

You really need to look for any edge that can help you to maximize your advantage in poker (within the rules). If you know of someone that is low on cash, you can represent a lot of things that come out on the board because your “short” opponents are actually playing scared money. One of my favorite things to do against these types of players is to get to their left, call them with a wide range preflop and on the flop and literally raise almost any turn. I’ve seen this move successfully made at $10-$20 and $5-$10. The higher the stakes the better. The more desperate your opponent is, the more that it may work. One of the other very useful bluffs I see work is representing frontdoor-flush draws. You will almost never see a guy, even if he was a calling station in the past, check/call a large bet on the river from up front when his bankroll is short.

You will also see these players start to tighten up in their games and they are very easy to play when they are out-of-position, especially when you are attacking their blinds. The less hands that they get involved with the greater the chance that their bleeding will stop their thinking. The next time you see a guy who has been on a consistent bad run, play close attention to the way he changes his play and find a way to exploit his newfound weakness. ♠

Follow Bart for daily strategy tips on twitter @barthanson. Check out his podcast “The Seat Open Podcast” on seatopenpoker.net and his video training site specifically for live No Limit players ­—CrushLivePoker.com. He also hosts Live at the Bike every Tuesday and Friday at 10:30 pm ET at LiveattheBike.com.