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Capture the Flag With Joshua Beckley

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Nov 25, 2015


Name: Joshua Beckley
Age: 25
From: Marlton, New Jersey
Years Playing Poker: About 10
Lifetime Tournament Earnings: $222,231
Top Poker Accomplishment: Final table of 2015 WSOP main event
Twitter: @Joshua1Beckley

East coast poker pro Joshua Beckley made the most out of his first trip to the World Series of Poker. In July, the 25-year-old pot-limit Omaha specialist was one of the final nine players when the $10,000 buy-in main event was paused until November.

Beckley had more than $220,000 in lifetime tournament earnings prior to making the November Nine, but he has arguably found more success at the cash game tables over the course of his career. Thanks to the no-limit hold’em cash game player pool becoming a bit tougher, Beckley has focused on PLO.

“Pot-limit Omaha never gets boring,” Beckley said. “There’s always action.”

Card Player had the chance to speak to Beckley, who is also a part-owner in poker clothing company Blind Squirrel Apparel, about the summer and the difference between hold’em and PLO cash games.

Brian Pempus: Can you talk about your deep main event run this year?

Joshua Beckley: This was my first year in Vegas. I was in school for engineering before. I learned a lot from the other events and used that experience in the main event. I tried to play every situation correctly, and I ended up getting some good table draws and so I was able to make some moves and play the players. My final table seat isn’t the best, but if I double up once I am pretty much in third. A lot can happen. Twenty nine big blinds is a good amount, so I don’t need to put myself all-in for awhile.

BP: How did you find poker and what drew you to the game?

JB: I started playing poker with friends around when Chris Moneymaker won. I started doing really well in these home games and tournaments with friends. I found it was a good way to make some money, and I enjoyed it. I liked the money aspect the most, and I was able to focus on it. I think I cared about the game more than [my friends], and then I figured out the math side of it and got a feel for reading people. I always liked board game and card games growing up.

BP: Can you talk about how cash games can prepare someone for the main event?

JB: They can definitely compare to the main event because you have 300 big blinds in the first level. You do play a post-flop game and try to get the most value. Later on, I was able to put people in uncomfortable situations. Most people didn’t want to risk their tournament life on a weaker hand.

BP: What is your usual cash game?

JB: I mostly play pot-limit Omaha cash. I don’t play much no-limit hold’em. I play the most at the Borgata, $5-$10 or $10-$25. PLO is really difficult to play really well. There are a lot of mistakes you can make, and even the best players make some. The game is so complex. It’s really hard to master, but you can have a huge edge against the people who don’t know what’s going on.

BP: Can you talk about the importance of aggression in PLO?

JB: In PLO, I think it’s important to have control of the pot. If you raised preflop, you’ll have opponents putting you on certain hands and if you bet the flop and turn, you can find out information. They usually raise if they have a strong hand, so if you are the aggressor you kind of know where you are at.

BP: How has the game evolved with regards to how people play A-A-x-x preflop?

JB: With A-A you do want to get all-in preflop. If you are deep, some people limp or make a small raise and then hope to get it all in. You really have to find a dry flop or an ace to do well with that hand post-flop, or possibly a flush [draw] if you have a suited ace.

BP: How does running it twice change the nature of PLO?

JB: If people are openly willing to run it twice, people will tend to get their chips in worse, because they have two chances to hit the card. It makes people sometimes get it in with just a flush draw or just not a really good equity spot.

BP: Can you talk about the mental aspect of PLO versus no-limit hold’em? The swings in PLO are bigger.

JB: You need to stay calm and not play reckless after you lose big a pot. You kind of need to expect these big wins and losses. If I think it’s a super easy game with someone who I feel is just giving away money, I’ll stay [when I am down a lot]. If people are playing well and beating me then I will likely leave.

BP: One of the strategy concepts that translates poorly from no-limit hold’em to PLO cash is set-mining. Can you talk about why playing small pairs in PLO is dangerous?

JB: You can always get in a set-over-set scenario. Even if you don’t, people will often have straight and flush draws and you aren’t really that far ahead. You want top set or a better draw.

BP: Blocker bets are popular in some no-limit games. Do you see these in PLO as much, where you are betting significantly less than pot in order to prevent your opponent from potting it when checked to?

JB: Yeah, a lot of people do blocker bets in PLO. Small ones aren’t really that effective, but on like a flush board, a lot of people can do a blocker bet with any flush that isn’t the ace, because often people aren’t going to raise you without the ace-high flush. That’s one spot where it can work well.

BP: Are these blocker bets sometimes too obvious though?

JB: Yeah, you can often tell when someone doesn’t have the nuts, and the best way to avoid that is to have a wide range for your pot-sized bets, so you can have the nuts or nothing.

BP: Is shutting down a bluff in PLO as common as in no-limit hold’em? There are definitely spots in the latter where it is best to not fire that third barrel on the river. Are three-barrel bluffs generally more profitable in PLO?

JB: I think most of the time you do run the three-barrel bluff because there are often so many draws your opponent could have missed, and also if they had a good hand already they probably would have raised earlier in the hand. That’s my opinion. I would say three-barrels are more profitable in PLO.

BP: When you are on the button in PLO, what are some of the hands that you will elect to limp in with after a bunch of limpers in front of you? Or do you rarely over-limp?

JB: You can definitely limp. This is a spot where you can play two small pairs and see what happens on the flop. I’d probably only raise there with something that as a lot of equity.

BP: In hold’em you sometimes don’t want to be thinning out the field two much when you have position and are confident in your skill advantage. In PLO, are you more often looking to see a flop heads-up with your premium holdings?

JB: Yeah, I like to narrow it down more for sure. Just in case I miss my flop, I can bluff one person. I can probably never bluff more. I’ve actually learned out a lot from PLO that has helped my no-limit game.

BP: What is a hero call in PLO compared to one in hold’em?

JB: In PLO, your bluff-catching hands are much stronger, like you have a good two pair. Sometimes you call with one pair or ace-high in no-limit hold’em, but that never happens in PLO. Your opponent could be turning bottom two pair into a bluff. It happens on rare occasions where someone makes a big call with one pair when they are convinced the other person had a wrap.

BP: In hold’em, people talk about the value in taking a free card when your opponent will give it to you. Are you less often taking a free card in PLO when you have a good draw?

JB: Yeah, I like to bet in position instead of taking a free card. I can represent so much more if I bet the flop and turn. If I check, it looks apparent what I have.

Beckley will play and Twitch live the five upcoming Million Dollar Sundays this fall on Americas Cardroom. His Twitch is