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.

More Poker Tips from Pros

2016-09-18 03:20:36

Just the (long-winded) thoughts of an amateur poker nerd:

Hand #1: I 3bet AK every time In MP for a few reasons. Most importantly it lowers the chance of seeing the flop multi-way out of position, allowing you to frequently win the pot without hitting the board. It also forces the UTG player to define his hand – if he calls we can be pretty sure we’re not against KK+, and a lot of his calling range is hands we dominate (AQ,AJ,KQ,etc.). If he 4bets we have an easy fold this early in the tournament (unless villain is wild AND we are willing to gamble our tourney life for the upside of an early big stack). Even if he is occasionally bluffing or has the same hand as us, most UTG 4bet ranges at this stage have AK in pretty nasty shape (JJ+, AK is probably the loosest we could hope for), and we can easily find better spots for playing a large pot. When we fold to a 4bet it also gives us an image of being willing to 3bet light, which will hopefully get us more action when we have a monster. We might also get more stubborn pre-flop calls when we have position, setting us up for very profitable c-bets (please, please, please, don’t ever show AK when you fold here).

I do often flat AK on the button if nobody has called in between me and the raiser. We are at worst going to the flop 4 handed with absolute position, holding a hand that is very disguised and can flop well. On an ace or king high flop it will be difficult for our opponents to put AK in our range, when we often have them dominated and drawing to three outs. With a tight button behind me, I will at least consider a flat in the cutoff because I am likely to have position post-flop, but it is much riskier.

Anytime I do flat with AK I am as willing to fold it post-flop in a multi-way pot as I would be with any other flatting hand. Even if I flop TPTK I will proceed cautiously and aim for pot control when 3+ players see the flop. We could have the best hand on 773 but I like your fold: why play a guessing game at this stage of the tourney?

Hand #2: This hand is much more read dependent. If button is an aggressive twenty-something wearing sunglasses and a hoodie I might play this much differently than I would against a gentleman who qualifies for the senior discount at the casino restaurant.

I don’t hate calling on the flop but I like considering a small check-raise. Button could stab in position with any hand, and even if he calls our check-raise he will have a hard time facing a bet on the turn without a big hand (especially when the flush card comes, because he has to put flush draws in our check-raise range). Most players don’t want to take big risks in limped pots and, since we were in the big blind, we can believably represent every 2 pair on this board. I won’t check-raise here often, because it turns our decent hand into a pure bluff, but it looks really strong with more players left to act, and we will pick up the pot right away (or with one more bet) often enough to show a profit. If anyone other than the button calls our check-raise we need to be very wary and usually check-fold the turn, but this is not happening very often.

Calling here is not great because of RIO considerations. We’ll often be in tricky spots later, even if our hand improves (imagine the river is a 7, we lead 800 and face a big raise). If our hand doesn’t improve, we often lose one more bet when we bluff-catch or stab the river after our opponent checks the turn. I think folding is better on this board because if we are behind we have only 5 outs, 3 of which are not very clean. We mostly want a cheap showdown and most aggressive players will not give us that option when they have position. We also have 2 players behind us (3 if SB wasn’t in), and they could have a strong draw, or even a hand they plan to check-raise (a lot of amateur players will limp 33, 77 or even 99).

If we had A7 I would like a call more, but unless we have the A of spades I’m still not in love with it. I think middle pairs Ten or higher are better options for check-calling against a wide button range. We are less likely to face overcards on later streets, our range looks stronger when we check-call on a broadway flop, and we can bluff catch with more confidence on a lot of rivers. It’s still not a very comfortable spot multi-way unless we are closing the action, so I am usually folding middle pairs in limped pots if I am not raising.

Although aggressive mistakes are always better than passive mistakes, I feel your river bet is too optimistic. We have a hand that wins somewhat often when the action goes check-check, which will happen more than most players think. Our hand also has some bluff catching potential. One argument for leading is that your range is somewhat uncapped here (you could have been planning a check-raise on the turn), so you might get more credit than you deserve. I don’t think we are ever winning when called, so this is a pure bluff. Betting 800 into a pot of 1350 we need our opponent to fold 37.5% to break even. Our opponent only needs to be right about 27% of the time to break even with a call. As much as our range is uncapped, this is a spot that many players like to bluff, and I can’t imagine many experienced villains that fold anything better than a 9 (ie. mostly only folding when our hand is best).

I’ve heard people make the argument that they are betting to avoid being bluffed, but I feel that logic is shaky at best. If we are reasonably confident in our poker instincts we should be okay making a decision once we face a bet, rather than basing our decisions on what our opponent might do. If you do want to make a ‘blocker’ bet it would usually be smaller, like 20-35% of the pot. That being said, we need a hand that can win when called to make this type of bet, which we don’t have.

When we get to the river as played I think we are relatively indifferent between a check-call and a check-fold. If we have reason to believe our opponent is over-bluffing this river (ie. his range is more than ~30% bluffs), then we have a very profitable check-call unless he bets more than 4/5 pot, which may still be profitable because it polarizes his range when his big bet value range is relatively narrow. Most big value bets are flushes, QT/T8 and maybe KJ/K9, and he’ll usually bet the turn with all of those hands except KJ/K9. I think most opponent’s will want to build a pot rather than trap when the pot is only 9BB, and QT can make a good semi-bluff with or without a spade.

I somewhat disagree with Patrick’s idea of check-raising the river. After our opponent checks back the turn we are usually betting our strong hands on the river because we have to think he is likely to check again with any marginal hand that has showdown value, hands that might bluff-catch if we led the river. A thinking opponent will have a hard time believing our raise and, if they are at all prone to hero calls, this is a good spot for them to look us up with a marginal holding like a king, or even a jack. Other than bluffs (which we don’t need to re-bluff when we have showdown value), most villains only bet TPGK or better in position, and I feel the value side of his range is calling too often for our check-raise to show more profit than a check-call. It is also risking a decent chunk of our stack in a marginal spot, early in a tournament, which we may not want to do even if it is a slightly +EV play.

Hand #3: I don’t ever open limp these days in cash games or tournaments, but that does not mean it is a bad strategy. Even if you face a single raise from later position you can comfortably call with deuces, and you don’t really need the betting lead if you flop a set. You do miss the times when one or two players call and then fold to a c-bet, but that is probably offset by lowering your pre-flop investment, especially if 3bets are common from the players behind you.

Hand #4: I don’t think you want to raise 77 in the small blind here. It is always good to take initiative, but here you are rarely getting 6 folds, and guaranteed to be out of position with a hand that flops middle pair or worse way more often than a strong hand. If you are planning to raise I think it should be much larger than 4bb. You want to charge your opponents dearly for the privilege of playing in position against you. I’d say your raise should be to at least 1100, and I prefer slightly larger (~1300). In cash games I like to raise roughly 3bb + 1bb per limper when i’m likely to have post-flop position, adding an extra bb when im in the blinds (ie. 1800). In the current tournament meta-game raises are generally much smaller, but you still need to adjust to account for the extra money in the pot.

I’ve never heard of the Q-8 rule but it makes a lot of sense to me. Even without that handy rule of thumb, my instinct is a check-fold here. If she is an active player she is likely not the type to over-fold the flop, and you are burning money more often than not. Too many players auto c-bet every flop and feel that, because they raised pre-flop, they must make every attempt to win the pot. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, and moving on to the next hand is your best play. As played, I think the Ace is one of the best cards for your range, and your reasoning for the barrel is fine, especially if you’re planning a third barrel on the river, and relatively at peace with the consequences when you do get looked up (read: won’t hate yourself for busting from a tournament this way).

When you spike your 7 I think a shove is very reasonable, and you might be focusing on results rather than decisions when you think of it as a mistake. You could make a smaller bet but most villains’ calling range facing three barrels is fairly inelastic, meaning the frequency of calls does not fluctuate much to varying river bet sizes. Although you will get paid less often, you will make enough when you get called that the larger bet is usually more profitable in the long run. You can choose a more exploitative bet size if you are able to narrow down your opponent’s range and tendencies well, but, when the effective Stack to Pot Ratio is less than 1 on the river, your best bet is usually a shove, whether you are bluffing or looking to get paid.

Hand #5: I think pre-flop is a call as long as you trust your post-flop play. You are getting a good price (almost 4:1) to take a flop in position with a hand that plays quite well, which is great. I think the big blind’s sizing is horrible for an OOP squeeze (if only facing the Hijack opener it is still on the small side). With roughly 3750 in the pot he’s only charging 950 more, which is ludicrous when he is out of position.

Post-flop I habitually play it the exact same way you did, but I like Patrick’s reasoning and will attempt to adjust my play accordingly. Although you often want to build a big pot with any two pair type hand, this board is a really tough one to raise and get value from worse. Except for exactly AA, AK and maybe AQ, his continue range has us crushed. If he is not the type to squeeze with low suited connectors, even his flush draws are ahead of us.

If we give him a flop bet-call/bet-3bet range of: TT+,AQs+,ATs,KTs+,QTs+,JTs,T8s+,Axdd,AK,AT,KT+,QJ,T9,AdQx,AdJx

our flop equity is only 39%. We are likely much better to play this flop slow, keep weaker hands in his range, and see at least the turn before trying to get all the chips in.

Any time someone says they put their opponent on exactly one hand I feel like they may not understand poker as well as they think they do, regardless of if they are actually right in that particular spot. Certainly, AK is a big part of his bet-call range, but it can’t possibly be the only hand he plays this way. Would you not bet-call AT (or KQ, KJ, KT, etc.) some percentage of the time in his seat?

All that being said, you got the money in way ahead (62% equity on flop, 73% equity on turn). Unless you feel like you have an overwhelming skill edge against the field AND the blind structure allows for very patient play, you will need to gamble sooner or later in order to make a deep run, and should be very happy to get your money in here. Don’t allow the negative result to make you forget that you were way ahead with one card to come, and in a great spot to build a big stack moving forward.

Hand #6: Tough spot and hard to play no matter what you do. I agree with Patrick that shoving preflop is probably best, but against middle position you are facing a stronger range than versus a cutoff or button raise, and may not be getting enough folds to show a huge profit. Against pretty loose openers I would shove all the time, but you are not short enough that every +EV resteal has to be taken, and you may want to wait for a spot where your opponent’s range is wider or your hand is stronger.

Calling preflop, despite the great price and great implied odds, is pretty risky. For every time you flop a nut flush draw and happily shovel your chips into the pot, you’ll hit top pair more than twice, and be in way ahead/way behind spots that are especially tough to navigate out of position. It may seem nitty but I think you’re best folding if you decide not to shove. I’d like to pretend I never call here with Ax suited but it is one of those ‘do what I say, not what I do’ type things, and probably a leak in my game.

There are a lot of different Ace-high rainbow boards, but on most of them it can never be terrible to get it in here. How can we call preflop if we aren’t planning to get our chips in the middle the <35% of the time we hit top pair? I agree 100% that you should trust your gut and make a snug fold here if you are so inclined, with the caveat that, if you have this kind of gut feeling in spots like this more often than not, you are likely overly loss averse, and need to embrace the lovely part of poker that we call variance.

Sorry for the absolutely ridiculous length of this comment, I really enjoy your articles and I got really into thinking about these hands. Hopefully you or one of your readers can get something useful out of this wall of text.

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