This weekend I attended the WSOP Academy tournament camp for their relaunch, mostly prompted by their one-time only hugely discounted price ($499) and because I felt like if I picked up even two or three useful tips it would ultimately pay for itself. I do feel that it was worth it, although if I had forked over the usual $1,799 I’m not sure it would be a worthwhile investment for me.

I’m not putting down the program at all. I think it would be an excellent investment for someone who is reasonably familiar with the game but lacks good fundamentals, doesn’t have a good conceptual framework for making decisions and fails to do the basic math that poker requires — or an experienced player with significant obvious leaks who is actually prepared to plug them (a category that consists of almost no one, in my opinion.) However, if you know me, while I am always looking to improve my game, I like to think I am at least the poker player equivalent of a puppy that won’t pee on your rug. I don’t complete the small blind with Q3 suited; I don’t call pot-sized bets chasing down my flush draw; I don’t call in late position with K4 off after a raise and four limpers muttering about pot odds. For me, most of the value of the weekend came from reviewing a few specific hands during the seminars and the information I culled from pestering Gavin Griffin during breaks.

All the seminars were conducted by Annie Duke, and based on material from her book, Decide to Play Great Poker. I thought it was well-organized and detailed and contained some good information, but this meant that the other five pros literally just sat up front and listened along with us as she spoke, barely participating. Gavin Griffin piped in occasionally, but the format didn’t really lend itself to any kind of group discussion. I would have much preferred hearing a short lecture from some of the other pros. It was only during hand analysis, when we sat at poker tables and played hands face up that we officially interacted with them.

Here’s a breakdown of everything that I found useful:

From Annie’s seminars:

If possible, try to play suited connectors heads up. Annie went through all the cards that could possibly come in a multi-way situation that could make you uncertain as to where you stood in the likely event that you flopped a single pair. Also, if you are heads up you are both (a) more likely to get paid off when you hit big, and (b) more likely to feel comfortable about where you stand so you can extract maximum value. She pointed out that when you do flop your flush in a multi-way pot, it plays like a bluff since you actually do not want a bunch of people calling you.

When you raise with a hand you wouldn’t call with, you have to win more often to make the raise worth it. She did an interesting calculation I hadn’t seen before. If we say the SB is 1 chip and the BB is 2 chips and it folds to you and you have TT, since you’re definitely going to, at a minimum, call your hand, raising 4 more chips to make a 3BB raise is really only risking 4 chips to win 5 (SB + BB + your 2 chip call) which means you only have to win 44% of the time to break even on this play. If you open with a hand like J7o, which you wouldn’t be playing, your would calculate that you’re risking 6 chips to win 3 chips, so you have to win 66% of the time to break even.

In super loose games where the other players aren’t selective about the hands they play, limp instead of raising and tighten up your range. Stick to big cards like AK and AQ, pairs and high suited cards that are easy to play postflop. Gavin Griffin pointed out that while some people get frustrated by players who can’t be bluffed, you make much more money off people who are unwilling to fold in the long run, anyway.

Hands that are going to call a raise can reraise more liberally. The math is similar to that of the raise, where since you’re writing off the chips you use making the initial call your reraise doesn’t have to be successful as often as with a hand which you wouldn’t normally flat call with. However, use the reraise with caution against a calling station. For example, there’s no point in reraising with TT on the button against someone who’s almost certainly going to call you when it looks like it’s going to go heads up, anyway.

Three-betting works better from the small blind than the big blind. You’re more likely to get credit for having a real hand as people are less inclined to defend their small blind.

Don’t forget about kill cards. Annie reminded us that there are some situations, the classic being when we’re on a flush draw against a set, where even if we ultimately hit our draw it’s irrelevant if a kill card comes first. So if you’re on a naked flush draw against a set, you have to reduce your outs by 30% for when the set fills up, leaving you a 3:1 dog.

There are some situations where raising or check raising the turn with top pair is a better use of your chips than just calling the river. For example, on an A93 rainbow board where you have AQ and are heads up, and aren’t quite sure if you’re up against AJ, AQ or AK, a reraise or check raise on the turn might fold some better hands, and costs you no more than if you just made/called a river bet. (She broke it down in detail based on position, strength shown by opponent, who the preflop raiser was, etc., but I think that general concept is a useful one.)

When card dead, look for 3-betting opportunities from opening raisers who you know can fold. I think this is something most people figure out instinctively, but it was a good reminder.

Limping and backraising is a decent strategy against guys who 3-bet you all the time. Gavin Griffin noted that Phil Collins employed this strategy a lot a the final table World Series main event last year. He also said your 4-bets don’t have to be that big. If the 3-bet is 1800, for example, the 4-bet can be 3800. That means it only has to work 64% of the time.

Everyone also agreed that the era of the squeeze play is over, since it’s simply too widely known, and there are too many people who simply call a raise with a big hand hoping to get squeezed.

From Hand Analysis:

We had four sessions of sitting down at the poker table and playing hands, then showing our cards afterward so our play could be analyzed by the pro at our table. The pros rotated around so we ended up working with all of them. This seemed like the best opportunity to get value out of the weekend, and my experience with the pros was quite positive, but it was limited by the fact that the level of play from the people at my table was at a much lower level than I expected. I don’t doubt there were some good players there, and there was one guy who had just won a Venetian Deep Stack several weeks before, but most of the discussion at my table had to do with rudimentary stuff like telling people not to call in late position with A8o after it’s been opened under the gun. Right after we had an extensive seminar about raising 2.5 to 5 times the BB (obviously leaning towards the smallest possible amount) a guy at my table raised in late position with 6BB. He was told to keep it to 3BB, and several hands later he raised again – this time for 7BB. I don’t want to seem mean about this, and good for that guy that he took the time to take the class and improve his game, but it’s pretty hard to get the pro at your table engaged in a discussion about balancing out your 3-bet range when he can’t even get some dude to multiply by three.

There were exactly two hands I made note of. One: UTG raiser raises 3BB to loose player who min raises. They’re heads up to an A-high flop. UTG raiser fires at it, second player tanks and folds. They reveal their cards: UTG raiser had QQ and min-raiser had 77. Gavin Griffin informs QQ guy that he has turned his hand into a bluff which he denies, saying, hey, I had queens! He tells him the best way to play it is to check/call possibly one or two streets, depending on reads. I ask him if he plays AK this same way to balance his range, and he says yes, he check/calls his whole range there.

Another hand with Shawn Rice at the table. UTG raiser, one caller in second position, heads up to an 8s 8c 10c. I can’t remember the exact action (I think the original raiser c-bet and second player called) but the original raiser, with AK, ultimately lost the hand to J10. Shawn Rice pointed out that if the AK had check/raised the hand on the flop he probably would have won.

A few other small things I picked up from talking to Gavin Griffin, who was very approachable and nice (as were all the other pros there):

He said he has had discussions with people about how it’s better to just call from the big blind with anything you’re going to play and not 3-bet, since your 3-bet range there is so defined. Someone even asked him about having limpers in front and having AQ in the BB, and he said he would probably just limp behind. However, he does 3-bet from the small blind, and told us about a hand in which he played 8 10s from the SB at the EPT that he won a few years back and how he just called a raise then but would 3-bet it today.

I also asked him a specific question about his shoving range with 15-20BB against a raiser in the highjack (who has about twice his stack) when he’s in the cutoff. He said it includes K7s and suited connecters as low as 89s. He also said as the raiser in that situation he opens with hands like 89s thought not Ace-bad, since he’s calling a shove with 90% of his opening range and doesn’t want to be in that position with that kind of hand.

He also told me the best thing I could do to improve my game playing the $100 – $300ish buyins was to learn to play a 15-30BB as well as possible, which seemed like great advice.

Sorry this was so long! I hope some of it’s helpful and I apologize for anything I’ve misremembered and misreported.



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