Poker tips from the PokerStars pros
By Sean Chan
Afraid to jump in a poker game? Do those other players at the tables scare you? Never fear, Casino Player was at the Poker- Stars Festival New Jersey last fall in Atlantic City to check out the action. The company re-launched its online poker offering in the state in 2016 and is looking to bring back some of its live poker experience back to the U.S. as well. We caught up with some of the site’s collection of sponsored pros. Each offered a bit of insight to help players of all skill levels at the tables.
$33 million in tournament winnings, six World Series of Poker bracelets, two World Poker Tour titles.
What are some pointers for a fairly new player regarding aggression with a playable hand?
Especially if you’re a beginner, if you’re going to play a hand and if it’s not good enough to raise – don’t play it. You always want to be the aggressor, you always want to be the one putting the pressure on your opponent. And as a beginner, make your bets bigger. You see the pros make a lot of little small bets because they’re just plotting away and swinging jabs. When it’s a beginning player, boom, just pound them with real big bets – kind of like Qui Nguyen did at the final table of the Word Series of Poker Main Event.
$11.8 million in tournament winnings, three WSOP bracelets, numerous other titles.
How important is a player’s position at the table?
In poker, the single most important thing to be aware of is your position on the table. You could have a pretty decent hand, like Ace-Jack, but you’re first to act and you don’t get to see what anyone else does before you act so you don’t have any information.
Meanwhile you might have a mediocre hand or just a bad hand such as 4-5 suited, but you’re on the button and get so much more information in the hand, that that’s actually a more valuable hand – 4-5 suited on the button rather than A-10 or Ace-Jack out of position because having that information about how everyone acts and getting to make better decisions throughout the course of a hand. That’s really all that poker is. Position is really the most important thing by far.
$18.3 million in tournament winnings, 5 WSOP bracelets, one European Poker Tour (EPT) title.
What should players keep in mind when they’ve built a big chip advantage in a tournament and want to use that stack to advance and win?
They should be continuing to put pressure on the smaller stacks at the table, especially on the bubble or other big pay jumps. Maintaining a big stack throughout the tournament and having the chip lead at the final table will give you opportunities to continue to put pressure on your opponents and put them in uncomfortable spots.
$3.6 million in tournament winnings, his historic 2003 WSOP Main Event win helped kickstart the 2000s poker boom.
What are some things to keep in mind for a player who is dealt a middle pair?
A pocket pair like 8s or 9s in middle position, you’re usually going to raise. It depends on a few factors: your stack size, your opponents’ stack size, how aggressive they are, and things of that nature. If you’re super deep and getting three-bet a ton, I’m probably still going to raise.
All my hands that I play, I’m going to play pretty standard. I’m not going to limp in with certain ranges of hands and raise at other times. If I’m going to play the hand I’m going to raise with it. There are times where I pick up 4s, 5s, or 6s, and I’m down to a 25 big blind stack then I’ll just fold because it doesn’t play well to a re-raise and I don’t want to have to get it all in, so it’s just better to fold those kinds of hands. You start getting up to 8s and 9s and 10s, then you’re looking to moving all-in.
$8.1 million in tournament winnings, three WSOP bracelets, two WPT titles.
What is your go-to strategy in tournament play?
Instead of having a set strategy, I like to be reactive. I’ll re-raise and bluff passive players who are trying to survive. I’ll check a lot into players who like to bluff. I’ll play more hands against bad players and loose players. However, unlike when I play in a cash game, I won’t fold for an extended period of time if I have a bad run of starting hands or bad ops. Trying to stay even or lose a little is a reasonable strategy in a cash game when the cards aren’t kind. In a tournament, you have to pick some spots to gamble or bluff before you get too short relative to size of the blinds, which will go up every level.
$336,00 in tournament winnings, chess grand master.
Can you describe the theory behind putting opponents on ranges of hands and how this can help players?
The idea of putting an opponent on a range of hands is to identify the various types of hands they may play in a certain way. Then, determine whether you will call fold or raise based on that range, rather than picking one specific hand you think they’re most likely to have. This is important in coming up with good default strategies. For instance, if you just sat down at a table and don’t know any of the players, you can think about whether your opponents are putting you on a range or assigning one specific hand to you (“I put you on Ace-King.”) and adjust accordingly.
$3.6 million in live tournament winnings, one WSOP bracelet, one WPT title, well-known for his Twitch poker stream (www.RunItUp.tv).
Are there any online poker tells players should look out for?
Absolutely, I think there are plenty of tells online. The most basic one is a timing tell. You make a bet on the river and the guy tanks, and then folds. Or tanks and then raises. You go, “Okay, what does that mean when he’s taking that long. Is he actually thinking or is he just getting the door?” You really can’t tell just how distraught he is. Maybe he’s just sitting back and laughing at you. You have no idea really what he’s doing. But you can still take that in context if you’ve watched the guy play for a hundred hands, and he takes a little while and you see that he’s weaker in this spot before he tanks and calls. Or he usually quickly acts and now he’s slow acting.
The most important tell you can learn online is bet sizing because everybody’s got to make a bet size. So if someone decides to bet small and they usually bet big, or bets small and they usually bet big – I think that’s where you can kind of get information. Understanding bet patterns is one of the strongest things the best online players do because that’s really one of the best available pieces of information you can get: how big is your opponent betting and watching him over a sample size so you can more likely assign your opponent being strong or weak given that history.
Also, if you’re playing online poker I would say the No. 1 tip is: that if your goal is to win you have to put time into study. Whether that’s reading books, talking through hands with friends, watching a stream on Twitch, whatever your vehicle is for learning. You can’t just play and that be enough. That doesn’t work for most people. You’re going to have to put time in to study and improve your game.
$3.1 million in tournament winnings, one EPT title.
Are there any hands that frequently seem to get players in trouble more often and can leak chips? What are some things to keep in mind?
A hand like A-Q can definitely be tricky because it’s hard to extract maximum value from it. It’s a hand most people – correctly – like to three-bet. But, when you op top pair, it’s rare to be able to comfortably bet all three streets after the op for value. The most straightforward advice would be to re-categorize it in your mind as a hand much closer to A-J or A-T than it is to A-K, playability-wise. Most people tend to do the opposite.