Top secret poker moves revealed (part 1)

Need to add a little extra something to your tournament game? PokerPlayer reveals the top secret poker moves the pros don’t want you to pull

Often you can follow the strategy advice from books and websites yet still find it hard to regularly make deep runs. Are you just running bad or could it be you’re missing out on something? Perhaps the straightforward poker lessons are failing you, leaving you scratching your head as others twist and turn when it really matters? 
Don’t get us wrong, standard strategy works best for most situations but knowing when to adapt, when to get tricky or simply overplay your hand can make the difference between another min-cash and a final table.
In poker it’s almost impossible to talk about absolutes, beyond Phil Hellmuth always believing his own hype, so why should strategy be any different? Let’s take a look at three ways you can veer from standard play to really turn the tournament tide in the first part of our Secret Move Strategy Series.

1. Limping with Aces

You raise with Aces, right? Of course you do. You raise for value, to take advantage of an aggressive image and to ensure that drawing hands pay more to hit their gin flop. Well, doing that early in a tournament is pretty difficult. When the blinds are 25/50 and the average stack is a smidge over 10k it’s pretty difficult to drum up much value unless an opponent happens to have Kings.
So what are you going to do with your pocket rockets, particularly if you are in early-ish position? Try a limp. If you don’t pick up a raise from a genuine hand or someone just trying to swipe a limped pot, then you go to the flop with huge implied odds.
If you bink an Ace you’ll likely have flopped the nuts and can extract value from your heavily disguised hand. If you don’t flop an Ace then you can play your hand as a cautious overpair. But that’s not the reason we suggest you should be limping here.
If someone limps in and you both flop a set there’s very little chance you won’t take it all, but that’s going to happen infrequently. It’s early on so there will still be plenty of weak players left in the field and should someone telegraph strength preflop with a raise it’s highly unlikely that they’ll leave the hand to a limp-reraise. Make it big, get the action heads-up in a grossly inflated pot and try to get it in on the flop.
How to do it
You limp for 50 as do two other players and a player with pocket Tens bumps it up to around 250. The blinds pass and you come back over the top for 1,000. The limpers now pass and the player with pocket Tens umms-andahhs before finally making the call. If you then pile into the flop you’ll frequently get jammed on by a hand you’re crushing that may have passed to four-bet preflop or, at the very least, may have shut down when he saw a King or Queen on the flop.
Don’t be a fish
If stack sizes are still deep postflop then don’t be a clown and blindly punt your stack off. Be wary of draw-heavy flops or those with multiple court cards on them.

2. The donk bet

The donk bet has had some bad press in the past, and for good reason. A donk bet is when you’ve been the passive player out of position and then lead into the flop, for example when you call a raise preflop and then bet out first to act on the flop. Most players in this situation are going to c-bet the majority of the hands that they raise with preflop so by leading with what you think is the winning hand you’ll simply make most players fold before donating a c-bet to you. Hence the term donk bet.
So donk betting is for donks then? Well, perhaps not. Team PokerStars pro Jude ‘j.thaddeus’ Ainsworth is one of the most successful tournament players around and he loves leading into opponents. Why? It’s a great way to inflate a pot without setting the alarm bells off in the same way as the check-raise or losing value when you trap check-call on the flop and your opponent checks behind on the turn and river. The donk bet is widely recognised as being weak, so who would play two-pair or a large combodraw that way? Usually no-one, but should you find yourself up against a player who really doesn’t like to fold then leading may buy you more action.
How to do it
If you’re facing a livewire who is willing to call with any part of the flop, backdoor draws or simply to float then this is your time to donk bet. If they’re a frequent floater look to check-raise them on the turn for value. If they’re in the passive school of not paying attention to the size of bets, and rather see a pile of chips as a pile of chips, then keep doing the betting for them.
Checking in these spots is to allow the other player to do the betting for you. If you think they’re not going to oblige and are more likely to check behind with marginal hands then why not take a stab? Remember, there are no hard and fast rules in poker.
Don’t be a fish
Don’t go donking into the ABC player. They’ll look at their King-Ten and the Jack flop and fold. Pull this move on the loose players that don’t want to pass.

3. Calling with a premium hand

The stop-and-go is so last decade you probably don’t even remember what it was. Someone would raise and you’d call out of position, largely in the big blind, and then shove whatever was left of your stack into the middle no matter what the flop was. It was far more effective in those more innocent years when players over-estimated their fold equity, under-appreciated pot odds and assumed that no-one would shove with anything less than top pair.
These days players underestimate fold equity, put far too much faith in ‘pot odds’ despite not being able to calculate them and think that their opponents will shove with anything.
This can work to your advantage, particularly when your opponent is a loose player, or has a big stack. This is not a great technique to use against similarly stacked players as the shove will endanger too many of their own precious chips making them unlikely to call with weaker hands and losing you value. Against players with a similar stack you’re better off either check-raising into them or calling a shove. Remember, try not to get too carried away with these techniques and always apply them in addition to a solid tournament strategy.
How to do it
Rather than making that three-bet shove all-in with a premium hand, which is likely to fold out a large chunk of the bully’s range, call the raise and jam the flop. Yes, you’ll occasionally make hands fold that may have called you all-in preflop but more frequently you’ll get looked up by hands that would have passed preflop but have now caught something. The shove will often confuse players, particularly on drawing flops, and get you looked up by any pair.
Don’t be a fish
Remember the tournament equity attached to your stack. This is not the kind of move for you to pull off near the bubble where you should be leveraging your fold equity when you can. Use it to chip up when the money jumps aren’t significant or the bubble is still some way off.

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