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The Pain Barrier - Manipulating Your Opponent
Joe Beevers
Feb 9, 2007

Finding the Low Cards in Omaha Hi/Lo
Mike Matusow
Jan 15, 2007

Looking at the Long-Term
Erik Seidel
Jan 6, 2007

Playing Small and Medium Pairs in Seven-Card Stud
Perry Friedman
Dec 29, 2006

Playing Aces in PLO
Andrew Black
Dec 21, 2006

Playing in Australia
Mark Vos
Dec 15, 2006

Playing Mixed Games
Jennifer Harman
Dec 7, 2006

Pot-Size Manipulation
Gavin Smith
Nov 30, 2006

Betting out of Position
Gus Hansen
Nov 20, 2006

How a Pro Thinks Through a Hand
Team Full Tilt
Nov 13, 2006

Cash Equity at the Final Table
Rafe Furst
Nov 6, 2006

Getting Beyond Your Cards
Perry Friedman
Oct 30, 2006

The Mindset of a Winner
Kristy Gazes
Oct 23, 2006

Balancing Poker and Life
Clonie Gowen
Oct 16, 2006

Play More Pots
Erick Lindgren
Oct 9, 2006

Heads-Up vs Multi-Way Hands in Omaha Hi/Lo
Andy Bloch
Oct 3, 2006

Playing Big Slick in Deep Stack Tournaments
Paul Wolfe
Sept 25, 2006

Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone
Ben Roberts
Sept 18, 2006

Playing Cap Games
Howard Lederer
Sept 11, 2006

From No-Limit to Limit
Richard Brodie
Sept 4, 2006

Check-Raising on Draws
Steve Brecher
August 28, 2006

Betting the River with Marginal Hands
Andy Bloch
August 21, 2006

Learning from Allen Cunningham
Jay Greenspan
August 14, 2006

Acknowledging Mistakes
Team Full Tilt
August 7, 2006

Playing the Main Event
Gus Hansen
July 31, 2006

Managing the Short Stack
Mark Vos
July 24, 2006

Playing Pot-Limit Tournaments
Rafe Furst
July 17, 2006

Red for a Day
Brian Koppelman
July 10, 2006

A Big Stack Mistake at the 2006 WSOP
Phil Gordon
July 3, 2006

Winning Poker - It's About More Than Money
Ben Roberts
June 26, 2006

Seventh Street Decisions in Seven-Stud
Keith Sexton
June 19, 2006

Big Blind Play in Limit Hold 'em
Jennifer Harman
June 12, 2006

Firing the Second Bullet
Greg "FBT" Mueller
June 5, 2006

Fourth Street Decisions in Seven Stud
Keith Sexton
May 29, 2006

Finding Your Inner Maniac
Greg "FBT" Mueller
May 22, 2006

Beware the Min Raise
Phil Gordon
May 15, 2006

Playing Bottom Two Pair
Rafe Furst
May 8, 2006

The Other Danger in Slow Playing
Howard Lederer
May 1, 2006

Why I Prefer Cash Games to Tournaments
Huckleberry Seed
April 24, 2006

Early Tournament Play
David Grey
April 17, 2006

Bad Position, Decent Cards
Howard Lederer
April 3, 2006

Inducing a Bluff
Layne Flack
March 27, 2006

Back to Basics
David Grey
March 20, 2006

Representing a Bluff
Huckleberry Seed
March 13, 2006

Viewer Beware
Howard Lederer
March 6, 2006

When Passive Plays
Chris Ferguson
February 27, 2006

Book Smarts vs. Table Smarts
Erik Seidel
February 20, 2006

Playing with John D'Agostino
Jay Greenspan
February 13, 2006

On Cavemen and Poker Players
Ben Roberts
February 6, 2006

Small-Pot Poker
Gavin Smith
January 30, 2006

Tips From Tunica
Andy Bloch
January 23, 2006

How Big a Bankroll?
Team Full Tilt
January 16, 2006

Thoughts on Omaha-8
Jennifer Harman
January 09, 2006

In Defense of the Call
Gavin Smith
January 02, 2006

Stepping Up, Stepping Down
Kristy Gazes
December 26, 2005

Playing a Big Draw in Limit Hold 'em
Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
December 19, 2005

Know Your (Table) Limits
Paul Wolfe
December 12, 2005

Getting Started in Stud-8
Jennifer Harman
December 05, 2005

What's Your Starting Hand Really Worth?
Steve Brecher
November 28, 2005

Bad Cards or Bad Plays?
Team Full Tilt
November 14, 2005

Strategies for Short-Handed Limit Hold 'em
John D'Agostino
November 7, 2005

Taking on a Short-Handed No-Limit Game
John D'Agostino
October 31, 2005

What I learned at the WSOP
Jay Greenspan
October 24, 2005

Back to the Drawing Board
Perry Friedman
October 17, 2005

It's Not Easy Being Green. Or Is It?
Team Full Tilt
October 10, 2005

Texture Isn't Just For Fabric
Phil Gordon
October 3, 2005

Know Your Opponent; Own Your Opponent
Paul Wolfe
September 26, 2005

How Bad are the Beats?
Steve Brecher
September 19, 2005

Third Street in Seven Stud
Perry Friedman
September 12, 2005

Flopping a Monster
Richard Brodie
September 6, 2005

Our Favorite Poker Books
Team Full Tilt
August 30, 2005

Holding On To Your Winnings
Aaron "GambleAB" Bartley
August 22, 2005

No-limit by the Numbers
Andy Bloch
August 15, 2005

Chip Sandwich
Phil Gordon
August 8, 2005

Sizing Up Your Opening Bet
Chris Ferguson
August 1, 2005

So You Wanna Go Pro
Rafe Furst
July 25, 2005

Dealer, Leave the Bets in Front of the Players.
Greg Mascio
July 18, 2005

Not Playing By The Book
Phil Gordon
July 11, 2005

Playing Two or More Tables at Once
Erick Lindgren
July 4, 2005

How To Win At Tournament Poker, Part 2
Chris Ferguson
June 27, 2005

How To Win At Tournament Poker, Part 1
Chris Ferguson
June 20, 2005

Specialize At Your Peril
Howard Lederer
June 13, 2005

Common Mistakes
Phil Gordon
June 6, 2005

Don't Play a Big Pot Unless You Have a Big Hand
John Juanda
May 30, 2005

Ask And Ye Shall Receive Part II
Erick Lindgren
May 23, 2005

Ask And Ye Shall Receive Part 1
Erick Lindgren
May 16, 2005

Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Jennifer Harman
May 9, 2005

Keep Your Toolbox Well Stocked
Chris Ferguson
May 2, 2005

Why I Leave My Sunglasses And iPod At Home
Howard Lederer
April 25, 2005

In Pot Limit...
Clonie Gowen
April 11, 2005

The Script
Phil Gordon
April 4, 2005

Just A Few Things When Playing Razz
Jennifer Harman
March 28, 2005

A Way To Approximate The Odds
Clonie Gowen
March 21, 2005

Sit N Goes Made Easy
Howard Lederer
March 14, 2005

Big Slick: A Slippery Hand

Rafe Furst
November 21, 2005

I often tell people that short-term results are not a reason to change how they play, but I likewise encourage them to use any excuse to study and analyze their game.

Recently, a player on Full Tilt Poker lamented that he'd gone broke with A-K in his last several tourneys, and he suspected that he was doing something wrong. A few questions revealed that he was getting knocked out fairly early in these tournaments when he put his A-K up against pocket pairs for all his chips. It's a familiar lament.

Many people fall in love with A-K pre-flop in No-Limit Hold 'em because they know that they can rarely be much worse than 50-50 to win the hand if they get all of their money in heads up. While this is true, the reverse is also true: Rarely will you be much better than 50-50 to win an all-in showdown.

So why is A-K considered such a great starting hand? Folding equity. Under the right conditions, you can increase your pot equity to well over 50% by getting your opponents to fold in situations where they shouldn't. Here's a scenario: Blinds are $200-$400 and Jen Harman (who has $12,000 in front of her) raises to $1,200 from middle position with pocket tens. You re-raise all-in for $6,000 with A-K from the button. It is difficult for Jen to call here because, even though she suspects you might have A-K, she knows you could also make that play with A-A, K-K, Q-Q or J-J.

Does she want to play for half of her stack on what figures to be, at best, a 57% favorite? You, on the other hand, are confident that unless she has one of two hands (AA or KK), you are no worse than 43% to win, even if she calls. Unless Jen picks up on a tell, she is forced to fold a hand that is actually better than your A-K by a slight margin. Not only that, but you've also made her give up all the extra chips in the pot (mostly hers) that were giving her great odds to make a call. Variants of this scenario come up all the time in No-Limit Hold 'em.

By putting your opponents in a bind where they must first call you and then have to beat you in a race, you can turn a hand that is 50% to win with all the money in pre-flop and turn it into a hand that is a 75% favorite or better.

The mistake many inexperienced players make is not giving their opponents a chance to fold. They look down to find A-K and can't wait to get all their money in the middle and race. But as we can see from the example above, the power of A-K pre-flop really comes from the "folding equity" you gain when you can make your opponent lay down a hand they would not lay down if they could see your hole cards.

Here are three keys to getting the most out of A-K pre-flop:

1) Jam with A-K, but don't call all-in with it.

2) Raise enough when you have A-K to give your opponents a chance to fold.

3) Don't raise so much that the only hands that are willing to call you are the hands that have you dominated (A-A and K-K).

To execute these plays properly, it is important to keep in mind the size of the blinds relative to your opponents' stacks and your own stack. A-K loses much of its value when your opponents are short-stacked or pot committed -- and therefore unlikely to lay down a hand -- or when the blinds are very small relative to everyone's stacks. These principles apply to both ring game and tournament play. Getting back to my friend who kept busting early in tourneys with A-K...

In the early stages of a tournament, the blinds are very small relative to everyone's stack size. This contributed to his breaking of each of the three rules:

(1) He was calling his opponents' all-in raises when they had their expected pocket pairs.

(2) He was jamming only after his opponents were pot-committed.

(3) After getting gun shy from having his A-K cracked a few times, he made his raises way too big to "protect" his hand, but then was only getting called once he was beat.

This is one of those instances where looking at short-term results can lead to long-term improvements.

Rafe Furst