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Capture the Flag with Jarod Ludemann

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Apr 16, 2014

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Jarod Ludemann grinds at $2-$5 and $5-$10 no-limit hold’em for a living in South Florida, and has found great success doing so. He said that the games in the Sunshine State are phenomenal.

Originally a limit hold’em player, Ludemann, now 25 years of age, made the transition to no-limit because that’s where the action is. After coaching golf for a couple of years, the Minnesota State University Mankato graduate decided to take a shot at cards.

Ludemann is also the former roommate of World Series of Poker champ Ryan Riess. The two lived together in South Florida prior to Riess winning poker’s biggest tournament.

Card Player caught up with Ludemann to delve into his start with the game and his success at winning in the limit and no-limit cash games he frequents.

Brian Pempus: First off, how did you get started playing?

Jarod Ludemann: My family was always big on card games. After Moneymaker won, I was intrigued so I started reading some books on no-limit hold’em. Some of the first books I read were Mike Caro’s Book of Tells and Doyle Brunson’s SuperSystem. I started hosting small home games and it blew up from there. When I was 18, I was playing regularly at my local casino, Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. I quickly found out that all casinos in Minnesota spread limit cash games only. It was a different game, so I had to read a book on limit. I’d say Mike Caro’s book helped me the most. It really helped me pick up on live tells based on people’s facial expressions, how they’d bet, what they’d say during the hand, etcetera.

BP: Was it more challenging to try to pick up on tells in limit? You don’t typically have as much time to think when making decisions. At least, it’s not as acceptable to tank in that format.

JL: True. It was difficult at first, but then the more I played the easier it was for me to pick up on tells. The more experience I gained the easier it was for me to hand read and range people as well. I remember taking my time in spots and people always getting mad at me for taking so long.

Some guys would bet very quickly and others would think awhile and then bet. Timing tells are pretty big in limit hold’em as long as you interpret them the right way. Others would bet and then grab more chips, eagerly waiting to bet the next street. Those were some of the biggest tells.

BP: What does that hyper-eagerness to bet usually mean?

JL: That they have a hand they really like. It could be the nuts or a huge draw. It just depends on the situation. Sometimes some guys would instantly raise me. If I wasn’t sure where I was at, I would talk to them and try to get information from them. Being able to interpret what they say and then apply it to the situation is something that took some time for me to get good at.

BP: So definitely more likely that they have it as opposed to faking strength? Is it pretty polarized?

JL: Definitely weighted towards having it. It is definitely polarized, they either have it, or they don’t. When I moved up in stakes and started to play with better players, their range wasn’t as polarized as they started betting second and third pair. It just depends whether you think your opponent is capable of thin value.

BP: What sort of bankroll requirements did you set early on?

JL: I remember reading somewhere that said you need to have around 400-500 big bets in order to play in a game comfortably. I followed this rule for the most part. Also, just making sure that you always have at least 12 big bets on the table is important. You never know when you are going to get a monster hand and get a lot of action, and it’s important that you maximize your value when it does happen.

BP: Can you talk about the importance of betting your huge draws like you already have it (in limit hold’em)? Does the math indicate that you need to build the pot for when you hit it?

JL: Yeah, you should always be betting your huge draws. You want to build a pot, especially multiway, because then when you hit your nut draws you’ll get paid big as others will be chasing inferior draws. Also, it’s important to bet with your huge draws because you might just get them to fold a better hand. You aren’t always going to get there, so betting and showing aggression is almost always the best route.

BP: Can you give some examples of mistakes still occurring at $2-$5 and $5-$10 no-limit these days?

JL: Playing too many hands, not playing draws aggressively, just giving up when missing, and calling too often with mediocre hands on wet boards. The list goes on and on. A lot of the players here just play recreationally and are just having a good time. Also, playing too many pots out of position and not understanding the importance of position is a big one.

BP: Can you explain why position is so important for your bottom line in cash games?

JL: You always have the advantage when last to act in a hand. The hand just becomes so much easier to play. One of the best things about positional advantage is being able to pot control. You are always in control of checking back, betting, or raising. You never really want to be that person out of position just check/calling every street, because you’ll get yourself into some tough situations.

BP: Are the games you play in typically deep enough to warrant a lot of set mining?

JL: The games are almost always deep enough to set mine. It just depends on how big the effective stack is in the situation. Generally you need 20-to-1 odds to profitably set mine. So, if a guy raises to $10 and you have deuces, he needs to have at least $200 behind for you to set mine. If it is likely that you will win a big pot if you do hit your set against your opponent, you can reduce the set mining odds to 15-to-1.

BP: Limping in, ever OK in a cash game?

JL: Yeah, limping in with suited A-x and small pairs is fine. Those hands will be easy to play postflop. Limping big hands from early position can be a good strategy as well. It just depends on the table dynamics and how much action you think you are going to get.

BP: So, you think limping hands that can flop the nuts, or close to it, is fine? Is that part of the logic behind being easy to play them postflop?

JL: That is exactly why. People will be limping other suited connectors behind and when you are in there with your A-x and you both hit the flush, they’re in trouble.

BP: When you first come into a room and check out a table, what are the first things you try to take in to determine whether a game is good or not?

JL: Once you are a regular, it’s easy to spot familiar faces, and you’ll quickly know if the game is good or not. If not, you just have to sit in the game and find out for yourself. If the game isn’t good, request a table change. Stack sizes are very important. If there isn’t very much money at the table, then I probably won’t be sitting there. General appearance varies. You’ll always have a mix of old guys and younger guys. You’ll have the standard stereotypes of each person at first, but you’d be surprised these days. I had an old guy four-bet me recently and he showed a deuce. You just have to be more careful with your assumptions. The game is always evolving, and people are getting smarter and adapting.

BP: Can you talk about straddling on the button?

JL: In a game where a lot of fish are limping, I’ll straddle and almost always raise my option with my nut hands and my air. I’ll just check my option with hands that play well postflop, multiway, like A-x suited. Some fish limp/fold, some limp/call, so you shouldn’t always be raising your option with hands like J-2 offsuit.

BP: Can you talk about how often you should be folding your small blind in limped pots in cash games?

JL: In limit cash you should be folding out of the blinds a lot. That’s a huge leak for a lot of people. In no-limit cash it just depends on the table. If fish are limping, I’ll call out of the small blind and play pots with them postflop. It really depends, though. Usually you want to avoid playing out of position altogether.

BP: For example, in $2-$5, would you ever put in the full $5 from the small blind with like 8-4 offsuit? Is it tough to fold that when there’s a ton of limpers and you know you’re the most experienced?

JL: I’m almost always folding hands like that, while completing hands that will have some of their limping hands dominated, like K-8, Q-7. I’m obviously defending any suited connectors and A-x. You have to play well postflop though, and not fall in love when you flop top pair. It’s fine to fold hands from the blinds and play nitty even if you are the most experienced player. You’ll still find yourself in tough spots. ♠