Learning Strategies for Texas Hold 'Em Poker

By Clive Patterson

As one of the most popular online and offline poker games, Texas Hold 'Em poker has seen an influx of players from around the globe. These players love the sport of Texas Hold 'Em poker because of the easy to learn nature and the ability to continue playing as they become more knowledgeable about the sport. An all encompassing game that allows for every skill level, Texas Hold 'Em poker is here to stay.

When learning to play Texas Hold 'Em it is important to learn the beginning rules before trying to learn any strategic plans. Learning strategies effectively will be based on the overall knowledge of the game.

Seeing the flop. In a normal hand of Texas Hold 'Em poker, the player should only see between 20 percent and 25 percent of the flops. Only the best of hands should be kept and bet on, all others should be spared for another hand. Waiting too long with a set of bad cards just means losing money and that is not the purpose of Texas Hold 'Em.

See the other players up close. Depending on the skill level of the other players in the game, the site of a card that betters their hand may shown like neon lights in their eyes. Watching the other players as the cards are turned, will help you to better gauge how they react to cards when they have bettered the Texas Hold 'Em poker hands they are holding.

Know the opponent. If playing with the same Texas Hold 'Em poker players over and over again, it will become easier to judge their style of play over time. If playing in a tournament, note the actions of the players, how they react to certain bid amounts and how they react in high intensity situations. These tips will give you an inside eye when you play against the same players again.

No bluffs here. Bluffing is not a professional tactic and it should not be a novice Texas Hold 'Em poker tactic either. The bluff can be left for friendly games and games where money is not on the line. When it comes to messing with your own real money, bluffing is not an advisable practice.

Fold early. Holding on to the wrong cards for that one extra chance is not worth the money you may lose. Texas Hold 'Em poker is all about winning money, not losing more money. If the hand you are dealt is not a solid hand with real potential, fold it. You will notice that many professionals rarely take a hand unless they KNOW that hand can play out for a few extra dollars.

The rules of Texas Hold 'Em poker are easy enough to learn even for a person who has never played poker. But, the strategies for the game are often left to the professional players. Before taking on any Texas Hold 'Em strategies, make sure you have a firm grasp of the basic rules of the game. Once you have mastered the game, you too can learn a few simple strategies to make your Texas Hold 'Em poker game a little closer to the pros. - 30230

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Future Book Betting Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them

By Ross Everett

Betting on sports 'futures' is an enjoyable and potentially profitable way to wager, but there are several potential risks that can lead to losses. Here's a rundown of things to avoid:

Search for the best price: A common mistake is to assume that the price on a specific futures wager position will be the same at every sportsbook. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you'll often see a greater degree of difference between futures prices from book to book than any other form of bet. This is because that books aren't as worried about what price other outfits are offering as they are about keeping their own financial position balanced.

Don't try to pick the winner in a competitive marketplace: This may sound sort of counter intuitive since the general idea of betting on futures is to determine the actual winner but it's really not. Like everything else, its essential to always be mindful of the value you're getting. In a futures market with several legitimate contenders at the top the price offered is seldom high enough to properly compensate for the risk you're assuming. Here's an example: in a hypothetical NCAA hoops tournament Duke is +200 to win the national championship. They've certainly got a shot, but at a payback of only 2/1 its hard to justify a wager at this point with the potential for so many interceding events that can make a championship more problematic. Such events as injuries, a tough tournament draw or even just going into a slump at the wrong time can happen to any team but when you bet a higher priced team--a 'dark horse mid major at 15/1 for example--you're getting "compensation" for assuming the "risks" of betting on a proposition with so many unknown variables.

To put this in more theoretical terms, the "true odds" of Duke winning the NCAA Championship are almost certainly higher than the price we're getting. Obviously, determining the "true odds", or actual probability of a future event is an inexact science but think of it this way: if the NCAA tournament was played 100 times would Duke wind up winning 50 of those? Given the number of other good teams and the propensity for upsets along the way, its doubtful. For the sake of argument, lets say that Duke has a 33% chance to win the tournament. That means that I wouldn't consider a bet on Duke to be a good value unless I was getting a price that a) accurately reflected the true probability of their winning and b) gave me some compensation for assuming the "risk of the unknown" inherent in taking the position so far in advance. At +500 I might be interested, but at +200 the value just isn't there.

In a less competitive field, there can be instances where even a big favorite is a good value. For example, lets say a book was to take action on a bikini contest between a Victoria's Secret supermodel and three members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The model would essentially be a 100% probability to win the contest, meaning that even a high chalk price would be a good value. Risking a lot of money to win a little is a tough thing to justify, however, even if the math makes sense.

Don't go for the big killing: Sports wagering is not a good arena in which to make a 'big killing'. It may happen from time to time, but it is extremely rare. A perennial doormat can come out of nowhere to win a championship at a big price, but the fact that it happens from time to time doesn't make it a good value. If you're a recreational player and want to throw a few dollars at a big long shot, no real harm. If you aspire to any degree of seriousness as a sports better, however, you need to maintain your discipline and commitment to value at all times. If you want to hit a big jackpot play the lottery or the slot machines, but don't try to do it in a sports betting paradigm.

Simply stated, the concept of value works the same at the bottom of the wagering ladder as it does at the top. Even if you're betting a big underdog at a huge price make sure that it accurately reflects the 'true odds' of the event occurring.

Don't waste your money on ridiculous prop bets: Occasionally sports books offer ridiculous bets to get press or to be funny. For example, a book once offered odds on Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and Bruce Willis all hopping into bed together and releasing a video tape of the proceedings. You'd no doubt get a huge payback were this to happen, but the 'true odds' of such an event transpiring far exceeded even a big potential payback. - 30230

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The Basics Of Betting On Sports Futures

By Ross Everett

Sports betting futures plays are often dismissed by more serious handicappers as poor values by definition. They're most frequently associated with rank amateurs looking for a big payoff with little risk. For example, a player might be entranced with a +10000 payoff should St. George, Utah be awarded the 2020 Summer Olympic games. While that would definitely be a nice payday, the problem is that the "true odds" of St. George, Utah hosting the Olympics is well in excess of a million to one. That means that even the huge 'plus number' offered represents an underlay situation and a poor wagering value.

Even for the more pragmatic bettor, the inherent problems with futures wagers are readily apparent. You have to tie up your wagering capital for a long time. More significantly, once your bet is down youre at the mercy of the countless interceding events that can influence the fortunes of a sports team. Its hard enough trying to weigh the significance of scheduling, injuries, personnel movement and so forth on a day to day basis. Controlling for all of these variables over an entire season is impossible.

So futures plays have no relevance to a serious approach to sports handicapping? Not necessarily. It's crucial to think of the sports betting discipline in terms of value. Used properly, futures wagers are frequently a good way of maximizing line value and finding overlay situations. Here are some ways in which future wagers can be successfully leveraged.

Futures can be a good way to leverage value on propositions where your knowledge is greater than the bookmaker's. For example, many sports books offer betting propositions on entertainment oriented events like the Academy Awards. A handicapper who pays close attention to the movie industry and Hollywood news can stay one step ahead of the linesmaker.

Some books even take bets on the major awards like 'Best Picture' and 'Best Director' before the nominations are actually announced. In this situation, a bettor who can read the 'buzz' on which films will be nominated can find substantially better values before the nominations are announced.

Making the Academy Awards an even better candidate for futures wagers is the nature of the film business itself. The release schedule for films is set well in advance, and after the year end cut off date no 'surprise' releases can sneak in to consideration. At this point, its relatively easy to narrow down the serious contenders and with some work to come up with a 'short list' of Oscar candidates.

It's also possible to leverage value in the 'stick and ball' sports with future wagers. There are obviously more variables in sports than in the entertainment industry and the top teams are never going to be found 'under the radar'. For example, you can already bet that the Patriots will win the 2010 Superbowl but you'll be hard pressed to find a value price on such a popular team with the general public.

The place to find value in this sort of proposition is to look at the less obvious teams. A few years ago an associate of mine took positions on several teams NHL that started slowly, including the Calgary Flames at 40/1. By the end of the regular season they were down to prices as low as 5/1 or 6/1.

This play didn't necessitate a crystal ball or a Canadien genie with a profound interest in hockey--instead, it was a simple matter of determining teams that offered true odds of championship success that were lower than the price offered in the future bet. At prices like 25/1 or 40/1 its possible to back several dark horse 'candidates' and if one or more enjoy postseason success it presents a number of opportunities to hedge and guarantee a profit.

Dont forget the field. Many bettors dismiss plays on the field in a futures wager out of hand, thinking that the wager represents all of the entrants not good enough to justify an individual price. If you pay attention, however, you can frequently use a field wager to your advantage. Shortly after Dale Earnhardts tragic death at the 2001 Daytona 500 I found a sportsbook that was offering a field wager on the NASCAR rookie of the year award at 15/1. Richard Childress Racing hadnt officially announced Harvick as the fulltime replacement for Earnhardt, but the word on the streets strongly suggested that would be the case. I knew that Harvick was a talented young driver (he was the 2000 Busch Series rookie of the year), but the unique situation with a rookie driving for one of the best financed and most experienced teams in the sport was too good to pass up. I made the bet on Harvick at just the right time, since after he was announced as the replacement for Earnhardt the line dropped to 5/1. After he won his first race (in his third race) the line dropped to 2/1 and by mid season the field was a -250 chalk.

Clearly the Harvick play was a 'best case scenario' but there are other instances where value can be had on 'the field'. While sportsbooks have learned a lot about NASCAR in recent years, up until a few years ago it was frequently possible to find a 'field' bet on road course races that included the 'specialists' that teams frequently hire for these events. In other words, it was possible to bet a group of road course 'ringers' such as Ron Fellows, Scott Pruett and Robbie Gordon with one wager. Again, you have to keep your eyes open and be ready to act quickly to take advantage of these rare opportunities.

Don't forget to shop around for the best wagering value. This is true with any sports bet, but particularly so with futures wagers as the prices you find will vary much more than a typical pointspread. A little bit of effort can easily reveal a more advantageous price, meaning greater line value. - 30230

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The Basics Of Horse Race Handicapping

By Ross Everett

One of the reasons that the popularity of sports gambling has skyrocketed in recent years is its accessibility. It's easy to bet on most major sports because everyone understands the basics, which teams are good and why they win. Horse handicapping, on the other hand, is a completely different and somewhat arcane discipline. Where there are some shared concepts, success at sports betting doesn't guarantee the same playing the ponies. Legendary sports handicapper Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder was famous for killing the books with his sports plays--and giving it all back with his inept horse bets.

Were not going to suggest that the information here even scratches the surface of what you need to know to become a serious horse handicapper. There are countless books, DVDs and other media that you should check out if this is your goal. If youre interested in simply knowing the basics so that you can enjoy a day at the track, here are some basic concepts of horse handicapping:

Do your reading: When you arrive at the horse track you should purchase a copy of the Daily Racing Form (DRF for short) and the track program. The DRF is basically the 'bible' of horse race handicapping, and offers morning line odds, horse, trainer, jockey statistics and information on each race at every major track across the country. The track program offers similar information for that individual venue, often in more 'user friendly' form.

You're not playing against the house: One thing to keep in mind when playing the horses that is drastically different from sports betting is that you're not playing against 'the house', you're playing against other betters. The track just accepts and pays bets, taking out a cut (called the 'takeout') for their services. The track odds are determined by the money bet on each horse. Long odds on a horse doesn't necessarily indicate a 'bad horse' but just one that for whatever reason isn't attracting bettor interest.

So where do odds in the newspaper or program originate? These are known as the 'morning odds' or 'morning line' and is basically an educated guess as to where the betting will go. They can be helpful as a handicapping tool, but may or may not reflect what will happen in the actual betting.

Horse handicapping basics: This is where horse racing gets complex--there are countless theories about how to handicap a horse race. Some handicappers consider the breeding lineage of the horse, while others are more concerned with past performance. Still others put more weight on the training a horse has received, or its workout performance.

Once a handicapper gets an idea what will happen in the race, he has to factor the available odds into the proposition. A favorite may be an unattractive wagering prospect due to a prohibitively high price, while a long shot may be a good wagering value based on a high potential payback. It all boils down to wagering value, which is simply a matter of doing a math. Teaching the youth of America solid math skills is crucial for no other reason than to help them gamble effectively and profitably.

Trainers and breeding: Some handicappers prioritize a horse's breeding background--considering his bloodlines and the competitive quality of his parents and grandparents. Then training must be considered--a good trainer can often get a horse to 'over perform' much in the same way a good coach can get the most out of his team in sports.

The Jockeys: In the simplest terms, jockeys are independent contractors and thus to make money they need to do well. In theory, a jockey wants to get on the best horse possible in each race to maximize his chances of winning. That also results in sort of a chicken and the egg conundrum"are the horses winning because the best jockeys are aboard, or are the best jockeys merely adept at getting on the best horses? Most serious horse players look to the jockey as a secondary consideration. Its sort of a situation where a good jockey cant win with a bad horse, but a bad jockey can cause a good horse not to win.

Find your own style, and maintain discipline: Basically, there's not a 'right' or 'wrong' way to handicap a horse race. Figure out what works for you, and develop and refine your own methodology. As in any form of gambling, don't bet more than you can afford to lose and in particular when you're starting out there's no reason to be making big wagers. If you want to learn more, there's a number of good internet resources including the Daily Racing Form website. - 30230

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Poker Legend Stu Ungar Remembered

By Ross Everett

Stu Ungar didn't have much going for him in most areas of life. In fact, it could very well be argued that he was downright inept in most areas of existence. He also had a self destructive streak that manifest itself in heavy drug use and other behaviors. Ungar, however, had one great gift--he was a prodigy with a deck of cards. He would become one of the first superstars of poker before it became a fixture on ESPN, but wouldn't live to enjoy the 'boom'. Ungar would eventually be done in by his baser elements, and would be found dead in a Las Vegas hotel room in November, 1988.

The only way to accurately describe Ungar's poker skills is to evoke a sports metaphor--Ungar's skills at the card table were like those of Michael Jordan or LeBron James on the basketball court. Ungar's greatest accomplishment was his three World Series of Poker victories, an accomplishment not far removed from Michael Jordan's six NBA titles. While countless volumes have been written on poker strategy, Ungar's understanding of the game was almost instinctive. Although he won millions playing poker, the amazing reality was that it was essentially a 'plan C' for him as a professional card player. He started as a Gin Rummy prodigy, but quickly ran out of willing opponents in his native New York. He then moved to Nevada, and cleaned out the gin players in the Silver State. He turned to blackjack out of necessity and was almost instantly successful, only to be barred as a card counter at a number of Las Vegas casinos. Needing a new way to earn money as a card player, he took up poker.

The problem, however, was that as masterful as Ungar was at life in the poker room, he was profoundly inept at existence beyond the casino walls. He fought a number of addictions-most notably to drugs and sports gambling. Following his WSOP victory in 1997, the 1998 tourney found him broke and almost wasted away from drug use. Though he had secured financial backing that would have enabled him to play, as the games began Ungar sat in the dark in his hotel room at Binion's unable to compose himself enough to appear.

Other stories of Ungar's troubled life away from the poker tables evoke the same theme: buying a new Mercedes with cash after a WSOP victory and driving it until it fell apart from lack of maintenance; signing mortgage papers as he played in the Dunes poker room; losing 1.5 million dollars betting on sports or golf in the course of a weekend on more than one occasion.

Tragically, Ungar's death came as he'd began to show signs of turning his life around. Noted casino owner and longtime friend Bob Stupak had stepped in to help Ungar pay off his debts, clean up his life, and provide the stake money to enter the major poker tournaments. Ungar was found two days after the two had formalized the agreement in a contract. Ungar also left behind an ex-wife and a teenage daughter, who still live in Las Vegas. The official cause of death was listed as "coronary atherosclerosis" and a mixture of drugs including cocaine, methadone and Percodan were found in his system.

Most of the famous gamblers of Las Vegas legend-guys like Puggy Person and Doyle Brunson-- have been tough, larger than life individuals with a healthier than normal dose of self-preservation skills. In this respect, Ungar was an anomaly among gambling greats-he was physically frail and almost completely helpless away from the poker table. With a handful of cards and a pile of chips, however, he became a ruthless and indomitable warrior. His story is certainly not one that the modern day, publicity conscious Las Vegas will celebrate. He will be remembered, however, as part of the tradition that gives the city its unique character. From the mobsters that pioneered the city, to the Rat Pack that civilized it, to the corporations that cleaned it up, characters like Stu Ungar have provided the spice that makes Las Vegas America's 'Paris in the desert'. Ungar may never have a statue on Fremont Street, but his spirit will live on. - 30230

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Profitable Sports Gambling Begins With Discipline

By Ross Everett

I get some of my best sports gambling concepts from non-sports gambling books. Thats not really surprising, since there are so few serious works addressing sports handicapping and gambling. Of all the various gambling related disciplines, sports gambling is perhaps the most complex. The paucity of written work on the subject is downright shameful in light of that fact. Since theres so little specific literature available some of the best theoretical resources available to the serious sports gambler can be found in books written for the serious poker player.

Poker--like sports betting--can be a profitable endeavor, and one in which knowledge and skill can counteract the theoretical odds against him. Legendary poker theorist Bob Caro once noted that while there are some professional poker players, sports bettors or blackjack players there's not a single professional roulette player.

The reason for that is that the house advantage in roulette is too high to overcome by any combination of skill, money management, strategy or discipline. To throw in another Caro concept, its a case where the decisions made by the roulette player simply don't have a role in overcoming the house advantage. Over the long haul whether you choose red or black, even or odd the house edge remains the same.

Caro argues that one of the poker players most valuable weapons is discipline at the table. The reason for this is that the average person goes into a casino for precisely the opposite reason"he wants to have some downtime away from the discipline and order that circumscribes the rest of his life. He wants to down a few cocktails, leer at some cocktail waitresses, and throw some money around for awhile. Hes not worried about theoretical return on investment, pot odds or other concepts of serious play. Casinos exist for the sole reason of providing him all of the escapism he wants while they slowly use their house advantage to make a profit off of him. Granted, poker operates differently in terms of the house advantage but the motivation that drives the recreational gambler to the poker table is no different than that which drives him to the slot machines or blackjack layout.

The importance of discipline that Caro imparts to poker players also applies to serious sports gamblers. The most fundamental component of sports gambling success is to look at it with the same degree of seriousness, discipline and professionalism that you would any other vocation. It's crucial to rework your thought processes to those of a professional, and abandon all vestiges of the 'recreational gambler's' approach to betting. The greater degree to which you can be disciplined and methodical in your sports gambling, the greater your level of success and profitability.

This isn't to say that there's anything wrong with being a recreational sports gambler. In fact, those of us who do this professionally *need* recreational players--they're the financial lifeblood of the casino and sportsbook industry. Handicapping sports would be pretty pointless without a bookmaker to take our bets.

If your goal is to bet recreationally, that's great. Unless you have the dedication, desire and discipline to approach it at a profession a recreational approach to gambling is ultimately better for most people. You might benefit from some greater money management discipline, but at the end of the day as long as you don't bet more than you can afford to lose it's really no big deal. - 30230

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