Things I Have Learned-age 57

By Roy Cooke


Limit and No-Limit have considerable transferable knowledge. Tells, game theories, pot odds and implied odds, concepts and calculations, competitive skills such as focus and emotional control all play similarly as well as many other skill sets. But additional features of the games play very differently. The ability in no-limit to bet whatever amount you want adds a new characteristic to hold’em, both in bluffing theories as well as the ability to offer your opponent(s) odds.

Switching from being a solid limit player to a no-limit player has been more difficult than I initially envisioned. My limit skills were strong enough to convert me immediately to a winner at the $2-5 level, but effectively reading hands/situations is an area where I’m making a lot of errors. While my focus is very good, my experience level isn’t. If you can’t put your no-limit opponents on a reasonably accurate range of hands, you’re going to make strategic miscalculations, and I do. Additionally, some of the concepts that changed with the addition of larger betting sizes have been slow to take hold mentally; my limit instincts often come to the forefront of my mind. That said, I’m growing my no-limit game quickly with a great coaching staff and work ethic.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

I’ve learned that the sophistication of the computer has brought the study of poker to a different level. The ability to analyze strategies as well as download millions of hands into computers has quickly changed the game. The ability to analyze hand ranges and flops with programs like Flopzilla as well as calculate strategies based on data-mining Internet Poker sites databases have strengthened the “science” of poker and weakened people who were strong in the “art” of poker. But while computers are capable of making adjustments based on hand ranges, most programs blend averages of massive data in calculating the best play. And while this often generates the best play, when the parameters of the situation fall outside average ranges, the computer generated play is often incorrect.

My master-planned strategy is to learn a base play style, one congruent with my personality and disposition and use it as a base guideline. For me, that’s going to be solid, trapping, steady style. That will improve my consistency, help keep me emotionally more stable and be an easy strategy to learn and maintain. I’m not saying I won’t make aggressive plays, but I’m not going to start my no-limit learning experience with a wide-open, high fluctuation style.

 From there, I’ll use my strong competitive skills to ascertain when conditions arise that require a change in strategy. By using this formula, I’ll have an easy to mentally access base strategy and will still make the appropriate needed adjustments. By mentally framing my thought processes like this, I’ll have a relatively easy to remember strategy that I can always revert to in difficult situations. Most importantly, this approach will keep me playing consistently, less prone to  emotional errors and mental fluctuations. My pre-flop base strategies are mostly already memorized. My post-flop strategies are still a work in progress, and likely always will be.

I’ve also learned that in no-limit I must take steps protect my stack in vulnerable situations and focus more on winning my opponent’s stack rather than protecting the money already in the pot. Because the bets are so much bigger, in no-limit it’s important not to make the pot too big when you’re in vulnerable circumstances. When you bet too big early and often, you’ll often find yourself trapped, “potstuck” and losing much more in weak situations. That said, many players take this concept to far and don’t bet in situations in which they have significant value. Yes, it’s a fine line, but don’t pass on the value of your hand if the situation is easy to read and/or your hand is not very vulnerable to a raise-bluff. 

Additionally, most apprentice no-limit players tend to over-bet their hands in an effort to “protect” their hand and in doing so often lose much of the value of their holding. When the EV value of the potential future bets called is greater than the assumption of risk of being drawn out on, you should strive to obtain the +EV on the future bets. Since, in no-limit you can bet whatever amount you want, this equation is controlled by you. Bet the most you think your opponent will call with the highest level of EV. If your opponent(s) won’t make the call with –EV, then you’re better off shutting them out of the pot rather than giving them the correct odds to call. Once again, in order to calculate this accurately, you need to be a good hand/people reader. Of important note, make your bet size determination based on your opponents’ potential range of hands and NOT just put them on the hand(s) in their range with the most outs. Yeah, you’ll get drawn out on more often playing this way and that’s definitely no fun, but in the long haul you’ll win more money and that’ll be great fun.

Along the same lines, I’ve learned not to turn hands into a bluff or “overprotect” holdings that will do better if they are played out. Since no-limit bets are larger, the reward for making a hand over hand is larger. If your raise folds out much of your opponent’s range that you dominate and you can trap him for significant bets post flop, you’ll do better playing the hand for value. Yes, you might be passing on a small equity edge, but if your raise folds out the portion of your opponent’s range that will pay you off if you both hit, you’ve succeeded in shielding your opponent from much of the big negative equity of the situation.

These are some of the major basics I’ve learned so far. The fine points and instinct development will come with time and experience. Piece by piece, month by month I’m going to grow my game. It’s a development project, like weightlifting. I’m accepting the fact it’s going to take time and effort, but know the project is going to add great enjoyment and value to my life.

I’m looking forward to sharing my growth with you!


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

It’s About Ranges, Not Hands: Part 2

By Roy Cooke


In part one I discussed how to estimate your opponent’s range. In this column, I’ll discuss some of the ways in which you can utilize your read of your opponent’s range to develop a clearer edge.

Hand ranges are often discussed in poker literature, but most players don’t vary their play enough based on their opponent’s ranges. Once you’ve determined his range you need to establish the best play against that specific range. And that doesn’t mean that you should make those determinations based on the percentage chance that you currently have the best hand. These determinations need to be based on how your hand performs EV-wise against the TOTALITY of his range.

A simplistic example of this concept is calling an all-in player with QQ when you know his range is AA, KK or AK. He has 12 combinations of better pairs (AA-KK) and 16 combinations of AK, so QQ is a 4-3 favorite to be the best hand. But, the problem with the all-in call is that AK still has significant equity against QQ. And the equity QQ gained by being about 56%-44%, against AK for the 16 times is not enough to overcome the equity lost from being about an 80%-20% underdog the other 12 times. The pot has to lay you a price large enough to cover the equity lost on the current call against the BLENDED range to generate positive EV.

All that said, most poker range problems are much more complicated. And your “range read” is much more likely to be erroneous. In these situations, I assign my opponent a range of hands; I then assign the percentage chance I think that particular opponent is making a “deception play”; Sometimes that percentage is zero, sometimes it might be as high as 80%. Then, I ask myself, “If I was in error, would it was on the loose or tight side?” Whatever the direction of my thought, I adjust slightly.

Then, I compartmentalize my opponent’s range into sections. Ones that beat me, ones I beat, draws and air. I loosely calculate how I think my hand will play against those ranges. I take particular note of hands with little equity as well as those with great equity. For example; If you have AA, and your opponent’s range contains sets and overpairs to the board. You have terrible equity against the sets and great equity against the pairs. But how you do overall will be a blend of the equity/EV of ALL your opponent’s range. 

 If, against my opponent’s range, I have few, if any, scenarios with great equity, and a greater number in which I have meagre equity, I know I must have a significant number of plausible scenarios in which I have positive equity to play my hand forward. By that I mean if the equity on your significant edge situations is leaning more towards the meager equity side, you’ll generally need  a lot of marginal positive equity situations to make up for the large equity lost the times you are in terrible shape.   

By calculating and compartmentalizing in that manner, I can loosely estimate my EV and adjust my play to create the best equity for specific portions of his range. For instance; if air is a reasonable portion of his range, but the other portion is hands that have me in serious trouble, a small wager causing him to fold his air range might be the best play if the pot is laying you a price, even though it’s a big favorite to fail.

Furthermore, your analysis of your opponent’s range should determine your bet sizing. Which hands will he call what size bet with? How does the EV of the bet, the size and the propensity to call add up overall? What is your optimum strategy?  Will keeping your bet small and inducing your opponent to call with some of his weaker hands more than make up for the equity lost from the hands he will call a big bet with? Determining such factors is a big part of what makes no-limit such a complicated game.   

Getting good at designing effective and creative plays based on range-reads is a major factor in what separates the great players from the also-rans. How can you best exploit the lines your opponent takes with his range? Does he 100% continuation bet if he raised pre-flop? If he does, his range will contain a lot of “air” and a raise-bluff might be profitable. Does he always check the turn after continuation betting the flop if he missed? If so, flatting the flop may be a better play, particularly if you have something to draw to. You’ll still win when he missed the flop and turn by betting.

Make sure that you blend the equity of ALL the plausible scenarios when analyzing the equity of plays. Keep in mind, your hands value isn’t just about its equity against an opponents’ range, you also need to quantify how you can outplay your opponent into the equation or if you may get outplayed. 

By constantly thinking hands through in this manner, even those hands that you’re not involved in, you’re going to get better at processing these types of equations. Over time, your brain will automatically start processing them, you’ll calculate the answers much quicker, and you’ll define your opponent’s ranges much more accurately.

The totality of all this is too complicated for current computers to solve, so it’s not going to be possible for you to indubitably solve either. But by keeping your thought process within your mental capabilities, making it as simple to process as reasonably possible  while keeping it  relatively accurate, you’ll come to good enough “rough justice” answers to your poker equations.

And if you can do that effectively, you’re going to be in the top echelons of the poker world.


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

It’s About Ranges, Not Hands: Part 1

By Roy Cooke


Weak poker players routinely put their opponents on a given hand. “I put him on AK,” or “I put him on Aces,” are common statements. Often, it’s just a psychological justification for the play they just made. But it’s also an incorrect way to analyze poker. Typically, your opponent would play many hands the same way, and you should utilize the strategy that performs best against your opponent(s) plausible range of hands.

First, you must accurately put each opponent on a range of hands. This starts by analyzing his pre-flop actions. With which hands would he make the current play, taking into account the type of player he is and the situational nuances? Keep in mind, you should read everything through his eyes, his emotional state and his knowledge level, NOT yours.  

So, being in tune with your opponent’s mindset is vital. If he would play some of his range in different ways from his current manner in this situation, then you need to discount that portion of his range accordingly.  Take into account the odds that he would play the hand in the current manner vs. playing the same hand differently.  For instance, if you think an opponent might slowplay a set rather than lead, discount the chances of him holding a set proportionally to the chances you think he would lead. For example; if you think he will only lead with 25% of his sets, reduce his “set range” by 75% when he leads.

As play continues, his hand range will narrow as you exclude more and more hands as you acquire more information. But the questions remain the same. However, you must keep in mind how the situation has changed card by card and decision by decision, plus how your opponent will read and react to those changes. And make sure you take into account his previous decisions, not just the current one.

Add a “deception factor” propensity to your opponent. By that I mean, what are the odds he is making a non-standard play trying to deceive his opponents? Once again, this will vary based on the situation and your opponent’s texture. Some poker “experts” recommend a given fixed percentage, but that percentage varies hugely based on each opponent’s nature. Those on wide open tilt will have a greater propensity to use deception plays than those who have “turtled up” and withdrawn into their shell. You’ll be more accurate by attaching the propensity based on your read of the current situation. 

Let’s start with a simplistic model to create a basic level of understanding of ranges. For example; you might think a limping opponent would have any wired pair below tens, or any suited big cards, and all suited aces that weren’t AK or AQs. Plus, any solid big cards, but not AK or AQ. Notice how I’ve excluded the hands I thought he would raise with. So, he can hold 22-99, T9s-KQs, QJ-AJ. There’s six card combinations of each pair and eight different pairs. So, there are 48 combinations of pairs. There are four combinations of each suited hand.  For this exercise, I’m using T9s, JTs, QJs, QTs, KTs, KJs, KQs and A2s-AJs. So, there are 4 combinations of 17 different hands, or 68 additional combinations. And let’s add the non-suited big cards, KQ, KJ, AJ, AT, QJ. There are 12 combinations of each of those, adding an additional 60 combinations. 

So, we have 176 possible combinations for this particular opponent. If you raise, which of these hands do you think he’ll fold? Some opponents will fold all but the very top end of this range, others will call with the entire range. When you’re considering a bluff-raise or semi-bluff you need to be able to estimate what percentage of his range he will fold to assess the raise’s value.

Many poker “experts” quantify only the immediate fold equity to assess the value of the raise, but this is conceptually incorrect. You should also include the EV, positive or negative, from the play of the hand forward. That’s because you may get called, play the hand out and win or lose more money after you raise.  

Notice that I said EV and NOT “equity!” They are not the same thing. “EV” or “expected value” is the average of what we will win or lose from the current point forward. If you can expect to average making money playing the hand out, your EV will be positive. If you can expect to average losing money playing your hand, your EV will be negative.  

Equity is the value of your hand should you be all-in. It is sometimes stated in percentage terms and sometimes is stated in terms of the monetary value of your hand in the current situation (30% equity in a $100 pot equals $30). It is important not to confuse these terms when calculating poker strategies. If there is money left to bet, keep in mind how that affects the price of your circumstances.

In short, when you’re thinking of raising pre-flop as a bluff/semi-bluff, consider your EV when called or raised and add that to your equation.

All this said, the equation for hand ranges is utilized in many poker equations and must at least be understood in order to attain any degree of poker expertise. I’ve included some basic concepts and stated how to work out hand-range equations. I understand this is complicated, particularly for those not math-oriented. But you can train your mind to do these equations. It may take time, but it will be worth the effort. Additionally, you can play with Flopzilla, a computer program that does hand-range analysis for you.  You can memorize and get a “feel” for ranges with Flopzilla, but I still recommend that you learn the basic math to calculate hand ranges so you can add and subtract hands and portions of hand ranges to your memorized base numbers. I’m not sure any human being can memorize the complete hand range chart; at least I know I’m not smart enough to do it. 

This is just Part One and the basics. Future parts of this series will discuss hand ranges and how to utilize them in your game. So, you’ve got two weeks to get this part down.

Study up!


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Limit Vs. No-limit Hold’em; Some Observations

By Roy Cooke


No-limit poker was virtually dead before the dawn of the Internet poker industry; limit, mostly stud and hold’em, had taken over as the poker game of choice in the middle 70’s. Now, NL is back, and it’s the core game almost everywhere.  

So I recently decided I’m overdue to master NL. Many of my current limit poker skills are transferable, but others are not. NL plays very differently, requiring different thought processes and skillsets. It’s been more of a challenge than I thought it would be. That said, after several hundred hours of play, lots of study and great coaching, I now feel it’s coming together.

One difference I’ve found is that the NL limit games have less experienced players with an overall weaker knowledge of the game than limit players at the same financial level. Generally speaking, the expertise of $20-40 limit hold’em players is higher than $2-5 NL players. That’s because almost all of poker’s new blood enters through NL. New poker jurisdictions, like Florida, spread hardly any limit games and most of the poker marketing, tournaments and TV are all geared to NL. Much of the limit action these days is a bunch of old-timers who played the game before NL’s resurrection.  

It’s much trickier to exploit too tight play in NL; the blinds just aren’t big enough. In limit, with the much larger blind structure, players who play too tight pay a high price against aggressive players. In NL, too tight players give up equity to those who play correctly, but the lost-cost from the blinds is minimal. Too tight players in NL tend to lose equity more from not being able to entice weak calls than from being blown off of their blind hands.

Bet-sizing is a whole new issue to me. And it’s a difficult concept, one that makes NL a much harder game to play. Knowing and adjusting to how your opponents will react to differing bet-sizes as well as being able to adjust the odds you offer requires a lot of effective knowledge and creates some tough decisions.

Strategizing to “protect” the pot in limit poker is a key component of the game, one that’s often difficult to do. In NL acquiring bets from your opponent is usually more important. That said, I’ve read a lot of NL material that states you shouldn’t consider “protecting” the money already in the pot. But, that’s wrong! Getting your opponent to fold a high-equity holding and/or stopping an opponent from acquiring correct odds, current or implied, is an important concept you need to take into account in NL. The bigger the pot, the larger the stacks, the greater the equity of your opponent’s holding, the greater the loss cost if you get drawn out on, the more you should attempt to fold your opponent’s hand/equity or give him an incorrect price to draw. . 

Tilt happens, and I’ve seen a lot of players on tilt in my life, both short-term and long-term. But when it happens at NL, it can get real bloody, real quick. Additionally, NL requires a greater emotional control as losing your whole stack makes emotional control more demanding. It’s much harder to maintain emotional control in NL and it gets more expensive when you don’t.

Skillsets have different values in NL. Reading people is important in both games, but is more vital in NL. Computerized frequency calculations have created a new dynamic in poker wisdom, but they are more geared to Internet games where computer tracking software tracks your opponents’ tendencies with enormous accuracy. In live games, you can see your opponents, feel their emotional swings, sense their fears, perceive their knowledge level and construct a much better situational read.

While all those components are also true in limit, the value of a read in NL takes on a different dimension when you’re facing a large bet. If you’re going to play NL live poker well at the low to medium stakes, you must relate to your opponents. Strangely, the higher you go and the better your competition, the less important this becomes as the players become trickier and harder to read. It’s still important, but the frequency-based analytics grow in significance. 

NL offers greater opportunities for creative play, and I think makes for a more interesting game. It’s much easier to play an opponent off a pot in NL and when you make or save an extra bet, the value of the play is commonly greater. That being the case, awareness of your opponents’ tendencies has more value in NL. So, concentration and recall increase in significance.


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Letting Them In Or Move Them Out?

By Roy Cooke


I’m pretty sound conceptually at poker. It comes from my numerous years of poker study and discussions with countless intelligent, studious, and experienced players. That said, I’ve been one-dimensional in the way I’ve applied that knowledge, applying it almost exclusively to limit hold’em. In no-limit I’ve got a lot to learn, but a very sound foundation for learning. And I’m looking forward to sharing that learning experience and growing our games together.

Now that I’m taking up a no-limit, I’m studying the expert advice of experienced no-limit players. I understand the concepts they describe, but lack the “feel” to understand when and how to apply them. I anticipate the feel will come with time, experience and focus.

Most concepts basically play the same, though the numbers in no-limit are different and varying. But a few require a new way of thinking. In limit, with the small bet size in relation to the pot, with all but your strongest situations and the smallest of pots, you’ll generally do better if your opponent folds. This even applies pre-flop where in limit the EV from the blinds folding is usually greater than if they call.

But in no-limit the bets are proportionally bigger, and the blinds are smaller. Getting your opponent to call big bets, particularly in bad spots, can have massive value and is something to do your utmost to attain. Additionally, with the larger betting sizes it’s easier to influence your opponents into folding in large pots, something very difficult to do in limit.

Several hours into a $2-5 session at the Aria, $650 deep, I picked up the KhJh in the BB. It folded to an aggressive and weak player in the CO who had me covered; he open-raised to $20. The button and the LB both folded. I definitely wasn’t folding, so my options were to three-bet or to flat. I pondered how each option would play.

If I three-bet, I didn’t want a call or get four-bet. Mr. CO wouldn’t call without having a hand that had high equity against my holding. Also, playing a big pot, with this holding, out of position, against an aggressive player isn’t going to be a winner over time. Out of position, I’ll get outplayed and lose betting equity more often than if I had position.

But if I flatted, it would keep in hands which I had dominated in his range such as JT, QJ, KT, Kxs, etc. And if he held one of those hands, I might pick up significant bets from him with a large edge. Even though the hands I dominated were a small part of his range, the fact that it added huge value when he did greatly increased my hands overall equity. Additionally, flatting prevented me from getting four-bet, a call I probably wouldn’t make with this holding.  I called the $20.

The flop came the Kc-Jd-6c, giving me top two pair. Not much of Mr. CO’s range had me in dire trouble. He could have flopped a set, but I had a king and a jack which reduced the odds of either of those sets.  He’d continuation bet every hand he’d taken the lead on since I’d sat down, so I decided to try a check-raise in order to acquire the equity from his continuation bet bluffs. And check-raising might facilitate building a big pot in case he held a strong hand, but one weaker than mine. This wasn’t the right flop to slowplay since it was rich in potential draws, and I wanted to get value from drawing hands if he missed.

I checked, he fired $30, I made it $75, and he called. The turn card came the 4d, $190 in the pot. I chose to bet $140, about a ¾ pot size bet. I wanted to charge the draws, but not fold the weaker portion of his calling range. The bet’s size felt about right, but this is one of those “feel” questions that I lack the experience to feel confident about.  Mr. CO tanked and then called.

The river came the 9c, filling both the straight draws and the flopped club draw. Not only did this weaken my holding, but it also made Mr. CO less likely to call with a marginal hand. He seemed like an aggressive guy, and I thought checking might pick off his bluffs even though I hadn’t made a committed decision on whether I would call a big bet. If he bet big, I would attempt a read and make my decision from there. I knuckled. Mr. CO turned over the Kd-Ts, and the dealer pushed me the pot.

The hand speaks to adjusting my play from limit to no-limit based on no-limits larger bets. By not shutting my opponent out pre-flop, I had acquired $215 of action with an opponent drawing virtually dead. And while I understand this hand came down VERY favorably for me, with the value I obtained it doesn’t have to come that way very often to significantly mathematically adjust how my range plays in various situations.  

I like the way I played the hand. I’m unsure if I could have made more on the hand by having a better bet-sizing “feel.” But conceptually I was sound; I took my opponents tendencies into account, played him accordingly, and trapped him into losing over 45 BB’s. And you can’t do that heads-up in a limit hand; forty-five BB’s is $1800 in $40-80.

If it keeps going like this, I think I’m going to enjoy this no-limit game!


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Checking For Value

By Roy Cooke


Bets, even those with the same nominal value, have varying degrees of value, defined as bet-equity. A bet made against an opponent that is correct for him to call is a bet you don’t want him to call. Unless you’re checking to induce a bet, betting and your opponent calling will be better than checking, but you’ll do even better if you bet and he folds. And, if an opponent calls with outs, but without the right price, you’ve gained only the negative equity of his bet. However, if your opponent is drawing dead, any bet acquired will give you 100% of its nominal value in equity.

It’s important to calculate your poker equations in terms of equity, not in terms of the bet’s nominal amount. “A bet saved is a bet earned” is not a conceptually accurate statement. “A bet saved earned the equity saved from that fold” is the more accurate phrase.  A bet saved may not even have positive equity for you if the fold was incorrect, and the situation just happened to fall into the situational range where it saved you the bet. For example; if you fold with the pot laying you 2-1 and you were 50-50 to win if you called, but in the given situation your opponent was holding one of the hands in the 33% of his range which had you beat, your fold had negative equity. Do you understand why? In short, analyze ALL your poker plays by the equity gained or lost, not the nominal result they produced.  

I was playing $2-5NL nine-handed at the Aria. A young player I’d never played with before had just sat down and waited for his BB to post. He folded the BB to a $20 raise, the LB to two limps and was on the button when it folded to me on the button -2. Holding the Qs-Td, I made it $15 to go and was flatted by Mr. Young-Button. Both blinds folded, and we took the flop heads-up with me out of position.

The flop came down the Qh-7c-3s, giving me top pair, weak kicker, on a highly draw-free board. I contemplated my best strategy. First, I measured the texture of my opponent. I’d seen Mr. Young-Button play only two hands, but I could still make some judgments. He’d folded both hands, in the LB for $3 against a two call field. Therefore, he’d folded a hand getting $17-3 current, not indicative of a loose player. He was also young, male, and I tend to think young men lean to possessing a more aggressive nature than us old farts. Additionally, he could shuffle chips with a reasonable degree of proficiency, signifying experience. But experience and ability don’t always correspond. 

All that said, I thought Mr. Young-Button was going to be a “if I they check to me, I’ll bet” type of player. Therefore, if I checked, his betting range would be much wider than his calling range. Additionally, many of the hands that my opponent would bet, but weren’t the same holdings he would call with, would be “air,” and the expectation on those bets would be high. Since the pot was small relative to the current and future bet sizes, the concept of “protecting the pot” had little value.

I knuckled, figuring there was a high propensity for Mr. Young-Button to bet. He didn’t disappoint me and fired $20, which I flatted. If I check-raised, I thought he would fold all weaker hands than mine and most of his calling range would be better than my holding. Plus, I wanted to obtain additional value down the road.

The turn card came the 9d and I knuckled once more. Mr. Young-Button checked behind me. The river came the 3c. I decided to fire $50, thinking that he would call me with any pair. This situation differed from the flop in that I thought Mr. Young-Button would now check with many hands that he would call with, and I also believed that, since he checked the turn, his bluffing range was smaller. This turned the tables of whether a bet was correct. He called me and showed the Ts9s, a hand that he almost certainly wouldn’t have called a flop bet with. My flop check had created a situation in which I’d obtained $70 in extremely high equity value bets that I wouldn’t have obtained had I bet the flop.

And while I understand Mr. Young-Button didn’t have to hold the hand he possessed or play it in the manner he did, I believe my play obtained the best equity I could have gotten. In addition to the value I received in this particular situation, often checking and inducing bets out of your opponent can cost you less if you’re beat. Often, an opponent not only bluffs more when checked to, but also bet sizes smaller when they have a hand and are trying to induce a call. Checking can not only produce a greater gain when you have the best hand, but can also bring about a smaller loss when you’re beat.

If I read Mr. Young-Button for being likely to check when checked to, or the pot was larger and therefore there was more value in protecting the money currently in the pot, I would have bet the flop. This hand speaks to one method of adjusting your play to conform to the playing texture of your opponent and the size of the pot.

Learning how to adjust effectively is what separates the great players from the good. And if you want to be great, study up!


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Analyzing How To Play

By Roy Cooke


I enjoy solving the poker quizzes on Facebook’s “The Poker Forum.”  John Rackham, the group’s leader, posts hands he has played online and anyone can comment on how they think the hand should be played. The debates on how to play often get lively, and it’s interesting to read others’ thought processes, even those I know aren’t correct. Reading these posts gives me a lot of insight into others’ thinking.   

One interesting quiz was: You're in a $5/10 NL full ring cash game with a $1,000 stack. A very tight, inexperienced player with $1,000 makes a standard raise from early position to $40. You are on the button with 99 and call the raise. The blinds fold. The flop is the 9KA. The villain bets $60, you raise to $200, and he re-raises to $500. What should you do?

Let’s go step by step how I would solve this equation. First, I put my opponent on a range of hands that he would play in this manner. Since he’s both tight and inexperienced, I don’t think he’s three-bet bluffing, and the board is flush-drawless. So, I’m going to give him a range of AA, KK or AK, hands that a player with his tendencies would play this way. Then I calculate the odds of his holding each hand by comparing the mathematical odds of each holding to the other holdings.

There are 6 pre-flop combinations of every pair, and 16 combinations of all non-paired hands of which 4 are suited. Then, you must adjust the number of potential combinations your opponent may hold based on seen cards. In this case, since an A and a K are on the board it removes 3 of the possible combinations of each pair. Additionally, it reduces the number of AK combinations he may hold from 16 to 9.

Nine combinations of AK are available, and three each of AA and KK. So, with three 9’s, I’m 9-6 to have the best hand, or 60%. But that fact alone doesn’t dictate how I should play the hand. I must also asses how my hand plays against each portion of that range. Since my opponent has 4 wins the 60% of the time I have him beat and I have only 1 win the 40% of the time he has me beat, I must adjust my EV (expected value).

Since I’m incapable of doing the exact math in my head, I do some “rough justice” at the table and make an approximate mathematical finding. In this case I adjust it a 50-50 proposition (You’re actually a 51-49% favorite).

So now we have the equation defined. We’re approximately 50-50, and the money already in the pot is laying us a price to call. But is calling the right play? If he will call with AK, is a shove in order since we’re going to the river anyway?

But I shouldn’t just calculate the current mathematical odds of the play and formulate a decision based on those odds. I also need to calculate how the hand will play out and if there are any ways in which I can strengthen my odds by playing my hand differently.  

In this case, a call is better than a shove. That’s because it removes any chance of his folding the AK, a hand that your opponent would be losing EV by putting in the remainder of his money. And if you call and an A or a K comes on the turn, you can safely fold your hand thereby saving the remainder of your money and increasing your EV. 

This hand is a great example of how to calculate the correct play. It’s a very simple example; most poker equations will have bigger ranges and more complicated equations. But the concepts remain the same. When I’m analyzing wider ranges, I compartmentalize my opponents’ ranges into those I’m beaten by, those I beat, and those that are draws. Then I estimate how my hand will play against each of those ranges and determine the best forward course of action.

I determine the value by the EV of the blend of all the plausible scenarios, NOT the odds of my hand being good at the current moment. Your hand can be a favorite to be good and have negative EV when the times in which you are beat you are virtually dead, but the times that your ahead you’re not a big enough of a favorite to make up the EV lost when you’re virtually dead.

The hand is also an example of how you can play your hand in a manner to decrease your loss in a few select scenarios, thereby increasing your overall EV. The converse can also be true, where you increase either your win or your odds of winning in a few scenarios and improve your EV by playing your hand more effectively. That can be accomplished by pushing players out of the pot, increasing your bet sizes, trapping, waiting for a later street to raise, etc. The potential plays are endless and mostly a function of your opponent’s tendencies. You need to think in terms of how you can either lower your assumption of risk or maximize your gain. In this case flatting the three-bet lowered your assumption of risk by allowing you to get away from the hand if an A or K came. 

Going through poker exercises like this is good for your mind and game. Doing it on a forum where you can read and relate to others players ways of thinking also adds value to your poker thought process. If you want to join the forum, go on Facebook and go to “the Poker Forum”, anyone can join and the range of expertise is from beginner to expert.  

It’s fun and it will help your game!   



Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Stuffing It In

By Roy Cooke


No-Limit, like limit is about exploiting your opponent’s errors. But limit restricts your scope. In no-limit, because you can vary your bet sizes, you have a greater opportunity to engineer errors in your opponents. To take full advantage of these opportunities, you need to understand the tendencies of your opponent(s), recognize any potential errors, and know what strategies to employ to exploit those errors.

I was at the Venetian, playing $2-5 NL. The field was a mixture of tourists, local regulars, and good, but not great pros. Standard for the games there. Most of the tourists were trying to play well, but lacked the skillsets and experience to do so.

I’d been aggressive in the game by picking situations in which I thought the “value of aggression” was high and attacking them. It was working well; I’d bought in $500 and had almost doubled my stack without playing a big pot.

Two weak-passive tourists limped, and I looked down at the AhQh in the cutoff. I didn’t need a hand this big to press, but the bigger the better. I made it $25 to go. On the button was a deep-stacked, solid player. He had both poker knowledge and focus and I felt he knew I’d been pushing the game around. Mr. Deep-Solid three-bet to $80, both limpers mucked and it was my move.

Considering his button position and my aggressive image, I thought it likely he was raising light and four-bet to $250 in the hopes of winning the pot right there. Net-winning the $90 immediately was most likely higher EV than I would get playing out the hand. My large bet-sizing was a function of not wanting to give him much perceived set-mining value. I wanted Mr. Deep-Solid to throw away any medium pairs as those hands played well against my AhQh holding with position. I knew I was in deep do-do when he called, he was not the sort to call large bets without a hand that warranted it. 

But being in deep do-do is nothing a good flop can’t cure! It came the Jc-Th-9h, giving me an open-ender, the nut flush draw and possible overcard value. I contemplated the situation. I was back just over $700 and Mr. Deep-Solid had me covered. I read him for a tight range, 88+, AKs, AKo with a discount on the more medium pairs. By discounting I mean that I would put less emphasis on hands that I think he might play, but also might not. So, in this case, in spite of the fact there are 6 combinations of 88, I might reduce it to 3 giving him a 50/50 chance to have folded them. Of course, that’s all a best guess estimate.

I thought about how the hand would play. After flopping a draw with equity that large, I was going with it. Additionally, I wanted to play my hand in a manner that gave me my highest equity. If I could get him to fold hands that he would be correct in calling with, it would add value to my holding.

All of his range had at least 35%+ equity with a set having around 60%. I thought that, if I shoved all-in, he would fold AK which had around 45% equity and I thought he might even fold KK which also had about 45% equity. Analyzing his range mathematically, he had 12 combinations of AK available, 3 of AA, 6 of KK, 3 of QQ, 8 of sets (I discounted 99, 33%) and 3 of 88 (discounted 50%). So, AK was over 35% of his range, a hand that both beat me, had high equity against me (around 45%) and one he would fold on the flop to a large bet. 

And while my hand was a favorite over his blended range, I’d acquire higher EV if he folded AK and KK on the flop. Winning the $500+ that was already in the pot 100% of the time he had those holdings gave me higher equity than playing the hand against all his range. “All-in” I stated to the dealer and shoved my stack forward. My opponent tanked. Counted out the chips to call, put them back. “You have Aces, huh,” he questioned. I just stared at the dealer. After a couple of minutes he threw his hand away. I’m pretty sure he folded Kings from his speech and actions, a hand I definitely wanted him to muck even though I was a slight favorite over it.

The hand speaks to several concepts. One, in evaluating the value of your hand, keep in mind your hands value is defined by its equity, not its rank. In this case the AhQh was a better hand on the flop than KK even though it was had an inferior ranking. Additionally, when defining your hands equity, you should also incorporate the equity of any future plays, both positive and negative.  Often in no-limit the combined equity of a play (such as a semi-bluff) plus the equity of the hand value can turn a negative hand value into situationally positive expectation.   

You also need to be aware of how a hand will likely play in differing scenarios. What will your opponents call with? Fold with? What is the net effect of those actions? What is the price the play is offering you? Think about what your opponent thinks. Think about how he will react to different moves. Formulate your best play rather than just guess at it.

Do that, and your decisions will improve, along with your bankroll.


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Badly Donking A Hand

By Roy Cooke


I try to learn from my mistakes. God knows I make my share. That said, I’ve always felt that if I didn’t acknowledge making any, I was being complacent and not trying. Or worse yet, not admitting any of my mistakes to myself. And if I falsely justify every error and don’t admit my own mistakes to myself, I have no hope of learning from them.

Competitive skills are usually one of my strengths. By “competitive skills” I mean focus, consistency, coming to play every day, always trying my best, keeping my mind in the game, etc. In short, keeping my mind clear and deep-thinking while I play. Having good competitive skills can make up for a lot of shortcomings in other areas.

I was in a lively $2-5 NL at the Las Vegas Venetian. A live and easy to read player with $2,000+ in front of him straddled UTG for $10. He was called by a loose-aggressive recreational player to my immediate right, a player whom I also had tells on and was over $1,000 deep. UTG+4, I peered down to the KhKd, about $1200 deep and made it $35 to go. I had been card dead for a while, was not in the texture of game to make a lot of moves, and hadn’t played a hand in quite a while; therefore I had a tight image. Everyone folded to Mr. Straddler who called as did Mr. Rec-Player. We took the flop three-handed for $35, $112 in the pot. I liked my spot, position on two soft players, both easy to read opponents and almost indubitably the best hand.

The flop came the 9h-9c-7s. Mr. Straddler insta-checked and exhibited no interest in the hand. Mr. Rec-Player knuckled, and I chose to take a non-standard line and checked my kings. I felt that Mr. Straddler was the sort I could get big value from if he turned a pair or a draw, and I felt I would read if he outdrew me and get away from my hand. I wanted to get some post-flop value from my hand, was up against the right texture of opponents to make a trap play, and was willing to assume some risk in order to acquire that value. Additionally, I thought checking might induce some turn and river bluffs from either opponent.

The turn came the 2h, putting a flush draw on the board. Mr. Straddler checked, and Mr. Rec-Player fired in $75. Previously, Mr. Rec-Player had fired in his bluffs and hesitated with his bets when he was looking for a call. I immediately read this for a bluff and chose to flat, looking for him to barrel the river, a bet I had already set in my mind to call. Mr. Straddler folded behind us.

The river came the Ah, obviously not the card I was hoping for. Mr. Rec-Player hemmed and hawed and slowly counted out $140 to wager. I was anxiously waiting for him to bet, ready to call as was pre-determined in my mind from my turn read. He bet, I insta-called. He turned over the 7h4h for a flush.

I was insta-pissed at myself, and that was being kind to myself! Mr. Rec-Player had exhibited a tell on the turn indicating he didn’t want a call, but had reversed it and indicated he wanted a call on the river. I hadn’t bothered, out of sheer sloppiness and laziness, to reprocess the river information. And it had cost me $140, as I wouldn’t have called had I thought it through.

I had gone against everything I’ve ever thought regarding how to make decisions in poker. Standardly, I never make a firm decision until I have accumulated all the information I can.   I NEVER predetermine my judgements. I never know exactly what I’m going to do until I do it! My judgements are much better that way.  I have way too much experience and knowledge to be making stupid errors like this. I KNOW better; I just had a moment of mental laxness, and it cost me. That said, it may be a blessing in disguise. If it sticks in my memory for a long period of time, like I think it will, it’ll improve my focus for a long time to come.

I’ve written before how small edges make big differences over time in poker. Big edges make much bigger differences over time. And the level of attentiveness you pay to a game will make big differences in your edge. Not only do you avoid stupid errors like the one I made, but you’ll have better feel, read hands better, and go on tilt less often. Additionally, a high level of awareness will grow your game while you play. You’ll think about plays and counter–strategies, do poker-math equations while you observe, etc. All of which will strengthen your game.

The mistake I made was an amateur one. I’m embarrassed to admit I made it. However, it’s my hope that we all learn from my error. And that you and I will never make a mistake along those lines ever again. 

So, pay attention; don’t get sloppy. If you’re not there to play competitively, go home and come back when you are. It’ll save you the embarrassment of having to admit mistakes like this to yourself!

Plus, think about the effect good focus will have on your bankroll and your life! It’s well worth the effort! 



Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find him on Facebook.

Just Happily Plodding Along

By Roy Cooke

I’m a plodder. Unkind people would call me a nit! I’m with that. When I was young, recognition played a much greater role in my poker motivations. But I’m 57 now, and somewhere around 30,000-40,000 poker hours ago, recognition lost its luster. 

I still relish the intellectual challenge in a big way, but I would no longer play poker if I lost. I play to add to my quality of life, financially and enjoyment-wise. It’s an aspect many players, even numerous very good ones, seem to completely miss. Being a plodder makes the gambling lifestyle much less thrilling and much more of a grind. But it also removes much of pokers stresses. If you have a thrill-seeking mentality, plodding is not for you. The thrills that drive you will be actualized playing tournaments, playing high, maybe even too high for your bankroll and swinging wildly. 

Many players appear driven by an impulse to gamble, and they gamble as high as possible. They want to be “king of the mountain.” They‘re “turned on” by the thrills, the recognition, others perception of their wealth and fame. In some cases it’s real, a few people do attain wealth and fame playing poker, but in most cases it’s forge. Behind the scenes, many of poker’s “big names” haven’t the ability to beat the level they’re playing and are broke. Many are way beyond broke and buried in debt at a level they‘ll never recapture. The good news for poker is that the game offers an abundant amount of excuses for those looking to dismiss their results. 

The problem with poker thrill-seeking is that that nature of player seldom passes the “test of time.” The roller coaster swings of playing high-stakes low-edge poker create a lifestyle of emotional stresses and strains that tend to wear down all but the very mentally toughest. These swings, both mental and financial, intrude on their sleep, influence our health, encourage drug and alcohol use, and ultimately affect their cognitive skills. Over time, these stresses erode their poker skills. 

Some can afford the swings both mentally and financially. They have available money to swing wildly, either from possessing money or from other sources like backing or borrowing. If you’re tempted to play that way and have the money, ask yourself some questions. Will this aggressive technique make your life a happy one? Do you really have what it takes to be “king of the mountain?” And even if you are that lucky one (and it’s doubtful you are), if you create the mental toughness to actualize all this, creating that mental toughness may make you an unhappy person. 

Plodding is a different way of life. You play in games with a wide edge over your opponents; the limits you play are easily within your bankroll; and the swings don’t seriously mess up your mind, your life, your relationships, and your financial stability. It’s not sexy. You’re not going to win any yearly “most money won records,” but at the end of a long era, you’re likely to be ahead more net money than the majority of the “thrill seekers.” 

Much is written about poker strategies, what hands to play in what position, under what circumstances, how much bankroll you need etc.But little is written on how to be a good gambler. And in the large scope of your life, it’s the most important thing. 

Poker has a dark side; it swallows most who commit to its environment. They get caught up, in the game, in the illusion of easy money, the desire to “get even,” and all the false impressions the gaming industry is so enthusiastic to portray. Poker is different, and managing your poker life is going to be a challenge that your past experiences are unlikely to have prepared you for. Your choices are going to be significant in determining your success at the tables and the happiness level of your life. 

Like most things in life, that answer is situationally dependent. It’s great to fantasize about the way you’d like to be or how you’d like things to be, but life’s decisions need to be real. As Clint Eastwood once stated, “A man has to know his limitations.”What are yours? How do you handle stress? Can you quit big losers, or do you have to play until you’re falling asleep at the table? If you step up to a higher limit do you have to go broke at that limit before steeping back down so you don’t feel like you gave up or don’t want others to perceive you’re broke? If you can’t handle any of those issues psychologically, conservative is the way to go! You’ll greatly lessen your propensity to crash and burn! 

Conversely, if you’re not going to be happy until you’ve fulfilled your fantasies or at least exhausted yourself trying, then you should go for it. I’ve known some who made it. That said, poker has given birth to a massive graveyard of psychologically battered victims who have exhausted themselves trying. 

At age 57, I’m real happy I’ve been a plodder. I’ve mostly done what I want to do in life, and poker has made other aspects of my life very enjoyable. I’ve traveled, own a successful Real Estate business, managed an online poker site and have many great relationships that have shaped my life. Living around poker has been a very positive thing in my life. 

That said, I see that poker has been a negative factor in many others’ lives. They lived to play, didn’t meet their expectations, crashed and burned without creating other alternatives in life. They trapped themselves in a lifestyle they ended up hating, and it showed in their demeanor, and affected their relationships. Most importantly, it showed greatly in their overall happiness. 

Decide whether you want to live to play or play to live. Each has its upsides and downfalls. But consider your choices, incorporate your strengths and weaknesses, be true to yourself in your thinking. Above all, be real. 

And whatever your choice, do it with heart and do your best. No matter what your decision; it’s not going to be easy! 


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find 





Projecting Yourself

By Roy Cooke

"Don’t be deceived by appearances, men and things are not what they seem"……William Booth. 

Image is something you can deceptively project. That variation of deception is widespread and overused, particularly around the gambling world. Reason being, we don’t want people to know the truth. It’s frequently in our self-interest to deceive, though not nearly as often as we think and utilize. 

Deception takes many forms. Sometimes it’s done with purposely misleading half-truths. Other times we deceive with blunt lies. We can also deceive with purposeful unstated actions meant to mislead. You see all these methods and more at the poker table!

Of course, this is all understood upfront in poker. We all know we are there to compete and that deception is expected as a normal part of the game. That said, much of what I see in players’ attempts to deceive is transparent, though the perpetrator rarely thinks so. And, more importantly, if you’re looking to deceive opponents, letting them know you’re trying to be deceptive defeats most, if not all, of your purpose. 

That said, certain opponents are easy to deceive. Either naturally naïve, or out of their element at the poker table, they read the situation as it is projected. Many simply want to believe untruths, being delusional or in denial. They are psychologically biased to believe anyone uttering the line they want to believe. And there are plenty around the poker table wiling to reinforce their misbeliefs. Much of the negative image of poker emanates from that hustle. 

But there are other methods of deception, classier, and just as effective tactics that are better for the game. All poker players understand upfront that we’re all are there to capture each other’s money. But, over time, the game is better served when the game is comfortable for socially-oriented players. 

In most games, at least until you get into the middle limits, most players’ errors are calling when they should fold. This tends to limit the effectiveness of tactics in which you want your opponents to fold when they should call. Additionally, it’s much easier to steer people in the direction they wish to go, so in such games you should project an image that makes people want to call even more. 

People tend to call people more when they think the others are luck-oriented, friendly, and unpredictable. That being the case, when in social call-prone games, steer the conversations towards luck, but be lighthearted about it. Keep the game as friendly as possible, avoid whining, and never project anger. Of course, we all know that poker is a game of skill, and we’re there to win. But we don’t want to project that image. I often see poker pros, headphones on, or playing with their phones, never saying a social word, and just sitting like a log ever-patiently waiting for a hand. They’re playing “dead solid” and obviously projecting it to everyone but the completely unaware. And they’re costing themselves action and equity when they finally pick up the hand they’re awaiting. 

Projecting unpredictability is a different animal. Some accomplish this by making off-the-wall plays early in a session and then adjusting to optimum play. While this works, there is a cost to it, the equity-loss-cost of the suboptimal plays. Theorists argue that the cost can be easily made up in the extra action received on subsequent calls. And they’re often right. But sometimes there is an even better way, one that provides greater overall equity. You can create an image of unpredictability by playing in an unpredictable manner, but without using negative-equity plays to project that image. Instead, unearth positive-equity situations to randomize your play. 

You can achieve this by making lots of raises for free cards, raising and trapping with draws, making positive-equity semi-bluff plays, making +EV bluffs and playfully showing them, and by playing all marginal +EV hands/situations and fashioning impressionable behaviors to draw attention to them. Once you have sown the seeds of doubt into an opponent’s mind that is psychologically predispositioned to gamble, he’s commonly coming!

Many players try to tilt their opponents. They belittle, insult and ridicule them trying to cause errors. There is no question this is often effective over the short-term. That said, it usually creates an unpleasant atmosphere that drives away the recreational players. Taken as a whole, “needling to tilt” is an overall loser. Poker is a long-run game and you need to treat it that way!

And then there’s the alternate game texture, when your opponents fold too much. In this game, you want to portray yourself as serious, nitty and unimaginative. You’ll do better over time grinding them down with blind-robs, bluffs and trap plays than you will trying to induce them to call you when it’s not in their psychological disposition to do so! Played correctly, this texture of game often has better EV than those games with loose calling stations. 

There are many subtle tricks to manipulate your opponents’ thinking. Most are situationally dependent, based on your desired result and your opponents’ texture. For example, you might want to instill in your opponent(s) that you are on tilt after you have just taken a beat and then picked up a big mitt. How you should undertakeundertake this schemescheme depends on your opponents’ awareness level.With some you can just state that you’re on tilt or say “Steam Raise” and achieve the desired result. But often people will see through such statements and recognize that you’re just trying to manipulate them. With perceptive opponents a more subtle approach is needed such as putting more emphasis on your raise, obviously indicating you’re upset, but not being too obvious. 

At the poker table, or in life for that matter, you often see people who think they are being perceived as they are projecting. But unknown to them, their manner transparently shows, and the errors they producing produce are their own. In short, don’t underestimate your opponents and be so obvious that you are being read correctly. The right balance requires a truthful read of your opponents. 

manner Additionally, I think it’s important to separate your poker persona from your life persona. As I stated earlier, deception in poker is all understood upfront and generally accepted. But when you train your mind to operate in a manipulative and deceptive manner, your brain often works in that mode in non-poker situations. You need to mindfully differentiate the two, otherwise you’ll find yourself not the person you desire to be in life. 

But, when you sit down at a game ask yourself “What image will work best?” “How can I best project that image to these specific opponents keeping in mind their awareness and judgment levels?”And most importantly, “How can I best exploit that image?” 

If you get good at that, you’re going to stack a horde of chips!



Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find 




Calculating The Risk

By Roy Cooke

Good players understand the importance of obtaining value from their hands. But few have enough conceptual proficiency to understand how assumptions of risks affect the value equation. Any risks you assume need to be calculated into the EV equation. Fail to do that, and you’ll repeatedly miscalculate.

I was up early on a Saturday morning and meandered down to The Bellagio for a little $40-80 limit hold’em. The game was ablaze, with many players lingering from the night before. Vahe, a local high quality pro, raised UTG +1 and was called by three tourists behind him. In the LB I glanced down to the 7h7s and flipped in the extra $60. The BB called, and we took the flop six-handed for $80 each, $480 in the pot.

I flopped bottom set, As-Jc-7d, and contemplated my best play with my main focus on Vahe, the pre-flop raiser. While this flop hit much of his range, I believed Vahe wouldn’t bet any hand that wasn’t solid into this large and call-prone field. And while I was ecstatic that the board was rainbow, it also held many gutshot draws, and I didn’t want to risk giving a free card. Additionally, anyone turning a flush draw would generate a big overlay that would reduce my equity. I fired, and the BB folded. 

I was delighted when Vahe raised. It furnished the prospect of thinning the field or at least costing my opponents more to draw. Since the pot was big, increasing my probability of winning added significant value and devalued winning additional bets. One tourist called, and the rest folded back to me. I three-bet, understanding that Vahe might have AA or JJ. He flatted, and Mr. Tourist called. The turn came the Th, continuing the rainbow board. 

I bet, Vahe called and while the tourist was deliberating I thought through how the hand had developed so far. I read a huge portion of Vahe’s hand range to be AK or AQ feeling that he wouldn’t flat the turn with two pair or a set on a board possessing a large three-straight. His upfront pre-flop and flop raise signified a strong pre-flop holding that hit the flop. I contemplated how to play the river should a king or a queen come while taking Vahe’s tendencies into account.

Vahe’s great at getting value out of his hands; he just doesn’t ever seem to miss value. If he has any weakness there, it’s betting too light. Knowing that, I discerned he would bet the river if either a king or a queen hit, the queen making him top two pair. He’d bet the queen because he’s the sort that couldn’t live with himself if he missed a bet should I hold two pair. In the mist of my contemplations Mr. Tourist called and the dealer turned the Qh. I detested that card.

Now, I couldn’t beat AK, but knew that Vahe would wager whether he held AK or AQ. I knuckled, knowing that, if I bet and he held AK, I would get raised, but if he held AQ he would still bet. 

Let’s evaluate the plausible scenarios: If he had AK and bet, Mr. Tourist might raise and I could get away from my hand with no river cost. If Mr. Tourist folded, I would call and lose one bet, one less bet than if I bet, got raised and paid off. If I folded to a river raise, I would assume the negative EV of the risk of being played off the winning hand. 

If Vahe had AQ and bet, once again I would get away from my hand if Mr. Tourist raised, but would call and win the pot if Mr. Tourist folded. If Mr. Tourist flatted, I’d overcall and should my hand be good, possibly pick up an extra bet in that scenario. But if Mt. Tourist held a superior holding, then I’d lose the same amount as if I bet and folded without assuming the risk of being outplayed. 

If I led, I’d be subject to potential raises, some of which might be bluffs. Vahe, being a good reader would know that a king is a small portion of my range. So betting would risk being raise-bluffed or losing two bets with my set, should I pay off. Additionally, while I would think river raise-bluffs would be a small portion of his river-raising range, Mr. Tourist might also take a shot.

I knuckled, and Vahe fired. Mr. Tourist mucked, and I called, knowing I was an underdog.I instantly felt better when Vahe announced “I can’t beat a set.” Then I knew he held AQ and my set was good. I flipped my three sevens over, and he showed me AQ. I cheerfully stacked the chips!

The hand speaks to analyzing how a hand plays and strategizing how to obtain the best equity. You do this, not just by quantifying how to get the most bets into the pot, but by analyzing what play generates the highest level of EV by calculating the EV of ALL scenarios, including ALL assumptions of risks.

I often see players, even some very good ones, make plays that have little or no upside, but have a meaningful downside. In most situations their play made no difference, but when it does matter, they have needlessly cost themselves equity. 

So think about how your hand plays against the ranges of your opponent(s). Weigh any risks you’re assuming and make your best educated guess about how it affects the situation. 

Poker is a risk vs. reward analytical game; quantify it as such! And let the chips come your way!


Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years and has over 60,000 hours of poker experience. He is currently a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman, but can still often be found playing at Las Vegas’s poker rooms.

If you have any questions regarding Real Estate or wish to buy or sell a home, land, commercial, investment property, or mortgage an existing one, contact Roy or Misty Cooke at 702-376-1515. Their website is at which includes Roy’s Poker Room that has many of Roy Columns. Roy’s E-mail is You can also find