Feels like yesterday when I was so pumped up playing my first complete tournament poker series during the inaugural PokerBaazi Premier League last December. With a guaranteed prize pool of 12 Lacs and a 20k bankroll, it was something I had been eagerly anticipating for a while. Honestly, having been primarily a cash player online I saw it as an opportunity to brush up my tournament skills for the upcoming Aussie Millions more than anything else.
Fast-forward a year, four PPL’s and we have a whopping guaranteed prize pool of 80 Lacs (shattered into smithereens). 6 Lacs up for grabs at the Leaderboard along with an iPhone7 and 50k bankroll for the Leaderboard winner, the stakes sure have risen exponentially since the first edition, which goes to show the love and support you guys have showered upon us despite some technical and software glitches along the way.
With the staggering numbers in each event and the quality of players, I was sure I had to be at the top of my game to have a shot at that coveted Baazigar of the series. Kicked off PPL5 rather slowly on day 1 with just one min-cash and to see Sunit Warraiah, season 1 Leaderboard topper with a commanding lead was rather deflating but I vowed to do better the following days.
Day 2 was beyond amazing as I cashed in all events, finishing runner-up in two, third in the 5 Lac freeze out for 95k and 15th in the PLO. Achieving that kind of consistency through a long tournament session motivated me to repeat it the following days, which I managed with reasonable success cashing in 10 out of the 24 events and finishing at the top of the Leaderboard whilst facing some crazy competition from a number of amazing players.
As a player first and foremost, seeing the long hours put in during the PPL week being rewarded so well by Pokerbaazi was the reason I got drawn into playing all events during the first season and it has only improved with time. With TDS refunds as Real cash bonus chips, the amazing Leaderboard prizes, the special goodies for Baazigar of the series and the PPL After Party, which carries on for another 10 days, PPL time is party time for Professional and Recreational players alike.
Hope to see you guys next season that I’m sure will be even bigger and a better experience with the new software.
Small pocket pairs (2’s – 7’s)
The accepted by-the-book way of playing small pocket pairs in no limit hold’em is to play them cheaply from late position and continue only if you flop a set or trips (three of a kind), however, I would like to give my two-cents about these potentially valuable holdings in this strategy article.
For the sake of clarity, let’s call small pocket pairs 2’s-7’s as the same general rules can apply to all of them. With any of these pairs, you will face an overcard on the flop more often than not and they are usually extremely vulnerable unless they improve. Thus, your goal should still be to spike that set (hit a third of your pocket pair) on the flop. With that in mind let’s explore some tips for making these hands as profitable as possible in online games. While these nuances apply for all online games, they are especially true for the games on Pokerbaazi.com since I have played exclusively on the site for over a year.
Stack size consideration
One of the most important but underrated prerequisite for playing small pocket pairs is depth in stack sizes, because when you flop that elusive set, you are hardly going to be satisfied with anything less than a 50bb pot. In a 50/100 game, playing pocket deuces from the button makes more sense if you and the other limpers have 15-20k rather than 2-5k.
If you or your opponents have fairly small stacks, it isn’t a great play to invest a good portion of your remaining chips looking to hit a set on the flop. However, keep in mind that if the stacks are deep (100 big blinds or more), small pocket pairs become more playable. You can invest a small amount to potentially win a massive pot.
Importance of position with small pocket pairs
Position is paramount in no-limit hold’em more so than any other form of poker and is one of the key aspects to determine if and how you are going to proceed with a particular holding, this is no different for small pocket pairs which increase in value significantly as you get closer to the button.
Getting to act last, knowing how much you need to invest, getting a feel for your opponents hand strength coupled with getting to build bigger pots with more ease is a much more enticing prospect than the alternative. You don’t want to end up in an unwelcome situation when you get raised and face paying more than you wanted only to act out of position on the flop. While this may sound like hold’em 101, don’t overlook this important concept when playing these mini pairs. In an aggressive game, especially with the heated and continuous action on Pokerbaazi, routinely limping in with such hands in early position is a mistake.
While the old poker adage may advise you to flop a set cheaply with a small pocket pair at all costs, limp pots will probably earn you the least return when you hit your set.
With pocket fives in a deep 50/100 game, I think that is wrong to think, “Well, he was under-the-gun and he made it 400, he probably has Aces or Kings so I better fold.” In fact, you should want to be up against a big pocket pair when you have a small pocket pair. Why? If you flop a set, you’re likely going to take all of your opponent’s chips.
The odds of hitting a set on the flop with a pocket pair are roughly 7.5 to 1 against (about 12% or once in eight times), but if the table has deep stacks and you double up 12% of the time you call a reasonable open every time, it’s a no-brainer +EV decision.
Let’s assume that your under-the-gun (first to act preflop) opponent has pocket Aces and raises it to 400 preflop. Let’s also assume that he’s willing to put all his chips in on just about every flop (a reasonable assumption for low-stakes online games especially on Pokerbaazi). You both had 15k and you’ve folded on the flop 7 times for a current stack of 2800. The 8th time, you hit the set and double up to 24.4k. In the short run, you may hit the set in less or more tries, but in the long run, this scenario is still massively profitable.
I hope that I have given you some useful tips for making some profitable decisions preflop. To sum it up, I think that tight strategy book advice isn’t always the most profitable for loose online games nowadays and you should be looking to adapt your small pair strategy according to the table dynamics and as a general rule be willing to invest up to 10% of your stack against volatile opponents.
Situations like passive games and opponents who over-commit to big hands can make it possible to play any pocket pair for raises and at times 3-bets. However, these are also the type of hands that require extreme discipline and if you do not yet have the discipline to easily lay down your small pair on a tricky flop you’re probably better off sticking to those premium starting hands. Slowly work your way down to the smaller pairs once you get better! Good luck at the tables and keep flopping sets – it never hurts! ;)
So far, it’s been one hell of a rookie year since I decided to take the plunge as a full time pro this January. I had been playing on and off for years, trying to balance poker and university. Now, I could finally devote all my time and energy into poker, something I had been looking forward to for a long time. It was a mash of exuberance and trepidation, the likes of which I had never experienced before.
After two successful APTs in Manila in the latter half of 2015, I was feeling pretty good going into Aussie Millions. At the time, it was the longest poker trip I had planned and bricking a few side events proved to be the tonic I needed to gear myself up for the main event. After grinding my way to a 100k stack on day 1C, an hour into day 2 I found myself at a star studded table with Philipp Gruissem to my immediate left and Brian Rast two seats away. This was going to be a long day. And sure enough, the chips started to fly within minutes. It took me a while to find a handle on some of the best in the business, but eventually I found my comfort zone and most of the chips on the table.
Going into day 3, I had built my stack past the 200k mark and was amongst the top 30 stacks but a combination of losing flips and a sick river call by an opponent with third pair when I triple barreled a limp pot knocked me out at 66th place for a 15k$ payday. For a while, I was left wondering what could have been but I learnt a lot on the trip and was generally pretty happy with my game. Playing with the top pros and holding my own, while having a blast in Melbourne, was more than what I could have hoped for going in.
What happened next was completely unexpected. After Full tilt and Pokerstars were banned in Singapore, I had dabbled in Indian sites. I had been playing on PokerBaazi for about six months when I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to join PokerBaazi as a Team Pro. The offer of representing India’s most trusted poker site at Indian and international events was a no-brainer. I immediately said yes and looked forward to being a part of their wonderfully dedicated team.
Unfortunately, I got off to a slow start at the February IPC in Goa, which was my first tournament as a Baazi Pro. Busted the first couple of turbo events with KKs to AQ and JJs to A10. It was somewhat comforting to make day 2 of the main event, but ended up being card dead in the later stages to conclude a fairly disappointing start to the alliance.
Next on the cards was the first tournament of my Eurotrip- WPT Vienna and I was determined to do much better. It was the definition of bitter sweet as I ended up finishing in second place in the late night turbo event after losing the final hand all in pre with AAs against 22s. It was still an incredible start to the tour and gave me a much-needed boost after bricking IPC. The main event followed and I found myself at a hyper-aggressive table on day 1. Careful not to get into big confrontations so early on in the deep tournament, I picked my spots shrewdly to make it to day 2 with an above average stack of 48k. Unfortunately, I lost a massive flip at the start of day 2 with AK to Queens. Couldn’t recover from that and was eventually busted with 88s against A7.
It was quite an experience to play alongside Ole Schemion on day 2 of the next event, the 1100-euro 8-max. We got into a ton of 3-bet 4-bet situations trying to get the better of each other. I was lucky enough to pick up Jacks on one such occasion, where I 5-bet jammed 70 bigs with little hesitation and Ole surprisingly called with AJ to double me up. I ended up finishing 14th for a nice payday in the event after losing two massive flips, AQ to TTs and later 55s. Ah well, as Norman Chad puts it correctly, "no one ever wins with AQ!"
Stay tuned for more about my experience at the EPT Grand Finale Monte Carlo and what’s in store for the future in Part II of this blog post.