Strategies, tips and stories about casino gaming and casino life.

Dead Money in Poker

Just what exactly is “dead money” and what does it mean in no limit Texas hold’em? Well just like other phrases in poker then “dead money” has several meanings. In tournament poker then it is often used as a derogatory term to mean players that have bought into a particular tournament who have absolutely no chance of winning. In short they have contributed money to the prize pool without being in contention to win the prizes.

There is also dead money in no limit Texas hold’em cash games as well. This refers to money that is placed into the pot where the person that places that money either does not win the pot or does not see the showdown. As a rule then the dead money tends to come at different stages of the hand based on what level you are playing at. For example in high stakes and mid-stakes levels then the players are much more aggressive and they expect aggression in return.

This means that 3/bet, 4/bet, 5/bet and shoved pots are common pre-flop in no limit Texas hold’em six max games. Each player is very aggressive and so the ranges are much wider with each player trying to catch the other player exploiting the other. The bottom line is that there can be huge amounts of dead money in the pot even during massively escalated pots.

There is dead money also in full ring games like at the NL50 level. However it is the job of a very good no limit Texas hold’em player in games like this to attempt to drag as much dead money into the pot as possible. At the end of the day then if you have an edge in the game then you want your opponents to call when you raise and this is especially the case if they are weak players.

You want them to call because you want them to place more money into the pot that they will ultimately leave behind when they fold. Players tend not to stack off in games like $50 full ring no limit Texas hold’em cash games with hands that are not powerful. So there is less dead money at certain levels than others when the pots become very big.

At lower stakes levels then the dead money tends to be pre-flop and on the flop. This is because more players tend to drift into a fit or fold style and fold to aggression. This can be carried over onto the turn as well but for example in a NL50 cash game at full ring then if a player shows any intention of liking their hand on the turn then the chances are much higher that they will stack off with it. This means that your fold equity is far lower and you have much less value with hands like two pair and sets and other lower order non nut holdings. So it is important in no limit Texas hold’em where you think the dead money will come from and then adjust your strategy accordingly.


Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker

Looking at Balance in Online Poker

Everybody speaks of “balance” these days in no limit Texas hold’em and it is true that more players these days try to balance their actions than ever before. However it is often the case that money is made by being unbalanced than being balanced……let me explain.

At the end of the day then you are trying to exploit mistakes from your opponents in no limit Texas hold’em poker. Making money is all about exploiting errors and if there are no errors to exploit then you are going to struggle to make money playing online. So the next step is to look for a mistake and then exploit it.

So just what type of mistake does your opponent make in no limit Texas hold’em? Well in order to exploit a mistake then you need to move away from being balanced. Let us say that it was folded around to you on the button and you raised with 100% of your range. Clearly this range is unbalanced as we cannot have a strong hand all the time.

However what if our opponent folded 90% of their hands? We would win 1.5bb no less than nine times out of ten for an immediate profit of 13.5bb. If we raised to say 3.5bb then even if we immediately gave up 100% of the time on the 10% of the hands in which our opponent calls or re-raises then we show a profit of 10bb over these ten hands for 1bb per hand.

In this instance then we have had to become grossly unbalanced ourselves to exploit a gross imbalance on behalf of our opponents who were folding too much. Likewise for example if our opponent calls our raise and then folded to a c-bet 75% of the time! This makes c-betting profitable and we can c-bet more often against this type of opponent in no limit Texas hold’em more than we could anyone else. It is when your opponents are balanced that we have a problem.

As a rule then lower level players tend not to balance their ranges and their actions as well as higher level players and this gives us the chance to exploit them. Let us say for example that a player raises too much to attack our blinds. In this instance then it becomes correct to unbalance our actions to exploit their imbalance. As a rule then it is a very good philosophy in online no limit Texas hold’em to wait and see if your opponents show obvious signs of an imbalance before you go down the route of becoming imbalanced yourself.

For example if it is folded around to you in a no limit Texas hold’em ring game and you have the 7-2o on the button. If you raised with this hand on the first hand of the session then you would be unbalancing your game needlessly. This simply creates a needless situation for your opponents to exploit you and that is a situation that you really do not need to put yourself in until the timing is just right.


Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador at 888poker

Top Pro Poker Tips

Hand examples are very instructive when it comes to learning to play better online poker and here we will examine a play made by a winning online poker player. The game is $1-$2 no limit Texas hold’em. An early position player limps for $2 with a stack of $194 and another middle position player also limps. Our hero has the Qs-Js on the button with a $200 stack.

They raise to 6bb for the following reasons. Firstly there has been no sign of strength so far in the hand. Secondly they have absolute position on the button and a raise helps to wrestle the initiative. Thirdly we are beginning the process of building a very big pot by raising with a hand that can make the nuts. Although the suited nature of our hand means that we could be in a flush versus bigger flush situation, we do have the capability to make the nut straight. If there is a re-raise from the blinds or the original limpers then we can fold.

If we can get the hand heads up with position then this is a great result in online poker and the best result is to have your opponents commit as much money as possible in the hand before they fold.

Both blinds fold to our raise but the original limper calls making a pot of 14.5bb. The flop comes 9d-4s-2c and our opponent checks. Here have a fair level of pot equity with our overcard outs and the backdoor straight and flush draws. If we face a player with A-K then we have around 29% equity here with our holding.

Also if they check-call with a hand like A-K and then check-fold the turn then we need not fear us not having the best hand. So we can safely c-bet this flop and we do so for 9bb and our opponent does indeed call. The turn card is the Ah and our opponent checks again.

This is a classic situation in online poker where our fold equity increases because of the arrival of the ace. Our pot equity has not increased and had the turn brought another low card then our fold equity would have been much lower. So the arrival of an ace scare card means that we can fire another barrel here and maintain the bluff.

The key to winning in online poker is to decide if we need to bluff or value bet and what our chances are of being successful doing either. In this situation then we have a very weak hand on the flop but our opponent will also know that we are likely to have a weak holding as well in online poker most of the time on the flop.

So we need to be mindful of how we continue the aggression and against whom. So when it comes to firing second barrels then look to have a combination of pot equity and fold equity and if we have both then it is usually profitable to fire again. In this hand we bet the turn for two thirds of the pot and our opponent folds their pocket sevens.


Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker

Why Play for High-Stakes?

These days then the word “high-stakes” is subjective because what one player views high –stakes another may not. For example as an experienced online pro then my main level is NL100 which has $100 buy-ins. I know from experience that the mid-stakes levels these days from NL400 to NL1000 ($400 to $1000) buy-ins have some of the very best players in the world in them. These days there has been a mass compression of skill in online poker. The really high-stakes games or “nosebleed games” as they are also known tend not to have that much action.

The player pools are tiny and the required bankroll that is needed is huge as is the nerve to play at that level. As someone that played poker once upon a time with $5000 buy-ins $25-$50 blinds) then I know how difficult it is to play high-stakes poker and stay at those levels and handle the swings. A low stakes poker player can have a very high earn rate in terms of how many big blinds they make per 100 hands. In fact a strong regular at low stakes may make 20bb/100 hands or even more in some instances.

However as you move up in stakes then the number of big blinds that you would make per 100 hands drops sharply! While a player in $20 games may make 20bb/100 hands, a player in $1000-$2000 may make 1bb/100 hands. This is still a staggering $2000 per 100 hands of poker but there is one problem with that and it is to do with variance. The variance is so high in high-stakes poker that you can go massively long periods either losing money or breaking even. Because poker is a constantly evolving game then you can never be sure that your savvy opponents are not adjusting to you.

When all you are making is 1bb/100 hands then it stands to reason that you don’t have to fall very far to drop to a level where you are recycling money or even losing 1bb/100. If you happen to be losing 1bb/100 hands at $1000-$2000 blinds then you are losing $2000 per 100 hands or $20 per hand of poker. Unlike small stakes where a strong winning player maybe has to fall from 20bb/100 and so is 20bb/100 away from breaking even unlike the high stakes player.



Carl Sampson is an online poker pro at 888poker and poker ambassador

Play better online poker

A “read” or “tell” in poker is information that you get about your opponent that causes you to change your entire strategy or how you play in any given situation. Because you cannot actually see your opponents in online poker then your reads have to be of a technical nature appertaining to how your opponents play on the whole or how they play in certain situations. Many players put too much emphasis on these pieces of information and data information can be massively misleading. Of late tracking programs have become mainstream and many serious players have been using them.

However it has to be said that tracking programs merely collect and then reveal how your opponent has played in the past as a mean average. What it doesn’t do is reveal how they are possibly playing in the present or against you personally. Let us look at a few examples and reasons to see how “data” in the modern online poker world may not be the be all and end all. For example if your tracker or software package reveals how much someone is behind or ahead then how accurate is this?

Firstly earn rates in the short term can be wildly inaccurate and many strong players show grossly different earn rates over different 100k hand sample sizes. Many new players would be amazed at that but it is entirely true. Also we live in an era where most semi-decent players study poker and some devote their entire life to it. This means that a player can evolve and with it their game at a very rapid rate. I know personally that I am not the same player compared to what I was last year. All it takes is for someone to read something in a poker book and then implement it to not be the same poker player.

This means that any data or statistics that you had on these people are no longer of any use. The fact is though, how long will it take you to find this out? Then when you start to encounter very strong players then once again data can be massively misleading. Looking at a players’ 3/bet stats for example only shows a mean average. However they could be 3/betting one type of opponent very widely indeed but narrowly 3/betting someone else.

Then when they see how you play they adjust once again. The fact of the matter is that good players will adjust to individual opponents. This means that “stats” need to be used differently. For example tilt is a short term thing and not something that is easily revealed in long term statistics. This is also something that a player needs to spot visually and then adjust manually rather than rely on some tracker program. Do not get me wrong, tracker programs are important but these days we live in a world where players either constantly evolve their games or at higher levels they are constantly adjusting…….all of which means that much of the data that you collect is meaningless.



Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador

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