Poker Tips from Pros: Ring Rust & the Q-8 Rule

Ring rust.

Some poker players worry about keeping pace with poker's strategic progress.

I worry about keeping pace with the fundamentals of the game.

A hop, skip and a jump ago I was one of 2,104 entrants in the $109 buy-in, multi-starting flight online/offline/wherever you want to play $250,000 Guaranteed partypoker Grand Prix Poker Tour (GPPT) in Cardiff.

I hadn’t played poker for a year. It showed. I was out in the first two hours.

I reached out to partypoker ambassador, Patrick Leonard, to ask for some tips on ring rust, poker table talk and to go through the one or two hands I butchered along the way..

Lee Davy: Can you give some tips to recreational players who are going to play in an event like this suffering from ring rust? 

Q8 rule poker
The sharks are listening.

Patrick Leonard: "Don't tell anybody it's your first event. The Sharks will be listening quietly. It's good to find out who the other guys are, learn which guys are pros, maybe they will be looking to rebuy and gamble with their first bullet.

"Find out who qualified via the satellite route, perhaps we can put a little bit more pressure on them. Some players will be looking to gamble; others will have a single bullet.

"If the guy who looks nervous goes all in early, we can consider a hero fold. If he is wearing a sponsored patch and has been on Twitter for the whole of the first level, there's a good chance he's at it when he puts us all in."

LD: The table is a quiet one without a single ‘natural' talker. What advice would you give to recreational players who want to break the ice when nobody is talking?

PL: "A good ice breaker is to ask a question that people don't usually hear; this will make people interested and they will start opening up and subconsciously give you a little bit more info than they should.

"Sometimes I ask questions like 'how many people in this EPT main event field do you ever think has killed somebody before?' Or 'How many people in this field do you think are virgins?'"


Virgins? I don’t think Patrick has ever been to Cardiff.

Related Reading:

What is the Q-8 Rule in Poker?

Patrick Leonard poker coach
Leonard: "People in live tournaments don't fold much to 3-bets"

Hand #1

Blinds are 50/100. UTG opens to 300 and I flat with AK in mid-position. Two people call behind and I eventually fold to action on a 773 flop.

My View:

When I looked down at AK so early in the competition I instantly thought of a hand I saw a pro playing in an EPT event where he flatted AK early on and later told me that he had no reason to play a big pot with it at that stage.

That's stuck, and I have been flatting my big hands like this early in a tournament ever since. In hindsight I think I should be raising to thin the field as AK doesn't play well multi-way post flop.

Patrick Leonard’s View

"I completely disagree that we want to play a small pot with AK. Everybody intends to play a small pot so even if they have QQ it's very likely they won't four-bet vs. us.

"People in live tournaments don't fold much to 3-bets; once they're in, they're in. By 3-betting we play a bigger pot with AK against a range we do very well against and with the initiative.

"When we both have AK and we have the initiative we will win very often. When we're against 88, we win on the Queen- and Jack-high flops and on the Ace and King flops we have good implied odds. Post-flop seems fine multiway."

Related Reading:

Hand #2

poker tournament tips
Everybody loves a limped pot.

Blinds are 75/150. It's a five-way limped pot, and I check in the big blind with 7♦ 6♦.

Flop: 9♥ 7♠ 3♠

It checks to the button who bets 300 and I call.

Turn: J♠

We both check. 

River: K♥ 

I bet 800; he raises to 2,500 and I fold.

My View

When he bets pre-flop I think he has hit some piece of the board but I call hoping my hand improves or some scare cards will turn up.

When he checks back the turn I don't think he has a flush very often, so when the river is a king I bet, hoping I can push him off a weak nine.

But I don't give any consideration to what range I am representing. When he raises, I don't even think about his hand; I just fold.

patrick leonard poker tips
"He's gonna stab wide."

Patrick Leonard’s View

"I don't think that because he bets the flop it means he has a piece. In his view everybody checks and probably has nothing, so he's going to stab very wide.

“On the river I would check. The way the board has run out we have a lot of weak hands and not many strong hands. He has a lot of Kx hands for example that we don't.

"I'd rather check and then evaluate. If he bets the river, we can either call because he's representing only Kx and we look so weak that he's likely to be over bluffing here with hands like AX, QT, etc.

"If we aren't comfortable with calling, we can decide to raise, if his best hand here is KQ and we're at the bottom of our range, it's a good hand to take into our bluffing range and make a big raise. We can have all the flushes, sets and two pairs that he can't have. Of course, folding is ok too; remember you can't win if you fold, though."

Related Reading:

Hand #3

poker math rules
Throw away small pairs or limp?

Blinds 100/200. I limp with deuces UTG. Five people call and I fold on the flop.

My View

I should have folded this hand. What's your opinion on playing small pocket pairs in early position at the start of an event?

Patrick Leonard’s View

"I like your limp pre-flop. I think you can win a very big pot if you hit a deuce, and it's unlikely you will lose a big pot."

Hand #4

Five people limp ahead of me and I raise to 800 holding pocket sevens in the small blind. The only player to call is an Asian lady in the big blind. Up until this point I have seen her turn over a bluff with 62o and she has been very active.

Flop: Q♦ T♥ 4♠

I bet 1,300. There is no thought process behind why; she calls.

Turn: A♣

I think this is a good card for my range so I bet 2,400 and plan to move all-in on the river as I don’t think her range is as strong as mine.

River: 7♥

get better at poker
Changing your mind OK.

I hit a set. I know I have the best hand. And now my thinking changes. Initially, I was going to move all-in to push her off a Qx, Tx type hand.

Suddenly, I start telling myself that she may call if I move all-in because it's re-entry and she seems a little active. She has a pot-sized bet left. So I move all-in and she folds Qx face up.

My View

A couple of things happened here, and they happen to me a lot. 

1. Despite playing poker for a decade I still don't create ranges for my opponent or think about my perceived range street by street.

2. I change my mind in the middle of a hand regularly.

3. When I know I have an opponent beat, I am always too eager to get all of their chips and lose value.

4. I didn't know what to do on the flop, or why, so I just bet.

Related Reading:

Patrick Leonard’s View

"Flop is a pretty clear check-fold. Generally, with AK and 22-77 I will use the 8-Q rule and check-fold the flop if there are two cards between the queen and eight because they hit calling ranges so hard.

"Once we get to the turn barreling is potentially useful, but this is the problem with light 3-bets. To be profitable we often have to take ambitious multi-street bluffs with little to no equity that are going to get us in a lot of trouble and is definitely not the way to win in live tournaments against passive opponents."

poker tournament advice
Think it through.

Hand #5

Blinds 150/300 A25. The hijack opens to 650 and I flat from the button holding Q♠ J♠.

The small blind calls and a reg squeezes to 1,600 from the big blind. The hijack folds, I call, and the small blind folds.

Flop: K♦ Q♦ J♣

He bets 2,600 and I raise to 7,000. He thinks for a while and calls, leaving around 10,000 behind.

Turn: 5♣

I move all-in out of position. My opponent checks, my bet stands, and he calls. He shows AK.

River: [5x]

My View

I am not sure about my pre-flop call. I know his range dominates mine a lot of the time, but I feel I have the right odds to call (despite not doing the math).

On the flop I feel he has AK in his range a lot. I raise hoping to get it in. There is not much more thinking than that. When he calls, I am certain he has AK.

patrick leonard poker coaching
"Always take an extra 10-20 seconds"

Patrick Leonard’s View

"It's important to take your time on every decision and understand the situations and think through previous streets and think about how your opponent will view your play.

"Always take an extra 10-20 seconds to make sure you're understanding the situation and stack sizes correctly. 

"Pre-flop is ok, our hand plays well. We can also bluff a lot of boards like 876, etc. that our opponent won't have good board coverage on. On the flop, I would likely call if he has AK or AA he won't fold the turn or river if it's a dry run out.

"It means when he does have AK or AA we never go broke, because if a ten or Ace comes we make an easy fold; we get to see a safe turn and river before putting our tournament at risk.

"Tournament survival is so crucial. We can't win the tournament unless we stay alive. Generally, our range is weak here too. He has all the sets that we don't, he has AK that we don't.

"Often we're going to have JT, AQ, KT, QT that will not want to raise. We have very few credible bluffs here so anybody remotely competent will have an incredibly easy fold with AK and then when we go all in we are going to be all in against a set and drawing dead."

Related Reading:

new poker strategy
Pretty hand; tough decision.

Hand #6

I have 20bb and a player raises in mid position. One person calls and I also call with A♦ 9♦ in the big blind. The flop is ace-high-rainbow and I get it in against AK.

My View

When I lost the big pot I told myself not to worry, that 20bb was plenty and to be patient. I reminded myself that I had made rash decisions in this position before.

Then, when I looked down at my lovely hand, I couldn't fold. I knew I was beaten on the flop when the pre-flop raiser bet on the ace-high flop, but I still called.

Patrick Leonard’s View

"Generally, shoving pre flop will be good in live poker. Players will often call the pre-flop open very wide with hands like J7s, A5s, Qjo, etc. so we have a lot of fold equity.

"If there's a guy who opens very wide pre-flop and someone who is passive and calling a lot, then there's so much dead money and if we get it in, we have decent equity.

"Post-flop it can never be too bad to get it in, I wouldn't worry too much about that. However, if you have a really strong intuitive read, then it's important to trust and back yourself and make plays that don't make sense in black and white. Sometimes you just look at the guy and know he has you beat." 

Related Reading:


poker tournament math
Simplify and remember Q-8 rule.

My main takeaways from Patrick’s analysis:

1. Take Your Time

I will be writing a separate article on this, but contrary to popular opinion it's important to take your time on each decision -- especially if you are a recreational player or "ring rusty."

2. The Q-8 Rule

I like the way Patrick injects a logical rule. For someone like me this is a great tip because it cuts down my thinking time and makes these ridiculously frequent spots easier to navigate.

Related Reading:

3. My Exit Hand

Although I believed my opponent would go broke on the flop with AK because it was re-entry, I didn't give any conscious thought to Patrick's line of assessing what my opponent's reaction would be once I had moved in.

I know I have also made similar plays against good players only to see them fold because I have played my hand face up.

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