Sofia Lovgren: In the tank – doing deals and adding aggression to your game

888poker pro Sofia Lovgren is here to answer all of your poker problems.

Want to ask her a question? Email Sofia at or tweet @PokerPlayer365 now!

Deal or no deal?

I recently made the final table of a live tournament in my local casino. I wasn’t the chip leader but I had a big stack and was pretty confident of my chances of winning.

When we got down to six-handed there was talk of a deal and I was the only player who didn’t want to do it. They were saying that the stack sizes made it a crapshoot and we’d be better off doing a deal rather than playing. I stuck to my guns but they made it clear they weren’t happy with me and when I busted in fourth the rest of the players celebrated and chopped.

It made me feel pretty bad. Should I have just done a deal? It just seemed like  an anti-climax to me – I’ve never won a live tourney before and wanted to do that as much as I wanted to win the money. If I do a deal in the future what should I do? I don’t want to feel like I’ve been ripped off.
Miles Hewitt

I totally understand! Making a deal when you feel you have a big edge is not very tempting. My opinion is that you are totally free to make whatever decision you want without feeling you’re doing anything wrong.

The reason so many players – even the very best – make deals is variance. People don’t want to gamble for big money. This is more valid in cases like you were describing, when the stacks are shallow and a lot of luck is involved. I think it’s more common with three or four players left rather than six though. Next time you might make a deal, not to be more popular but to beat the variance and make more money.

Here are two links you can use next time you hit the final table. They represent different ways of calculatiing a deal. You should use ICM if you’re the short stack. A ‘chip chop’ is better if you are the chip leader.


I was reading the last issue of PokerPlayer and the feature about whether we need a shot clock in poker. The mag came out against it, but I think it would be a really good way to stop the endless tanking that happens everywhere. What do you think and what are your rules for calling the clock on players that are taking too long to make their decisions?
Nick Beck

I think it’s annoying when players take too long to make a decision. What surprises me is that after waiting for one player to fold, the next player takes as much time as well! You’d think he’d have had enough time to know what he was going to do.

Of course you should be allowed to take your time over the really big decisions. I think a clock of 60 seconds would be good and then some additional ‘time chips’ to use during the day. This would encourage players to look at their hands and think while another player is taking time to decide. I don’t call the clock on other players often as it can be perceived as being rude.

Hear me roar!

Have you got any tips for introducing more aggression into my game? I think I’m too tight but being aggressive doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve tried raising more in position but I always feel that if I’m doing it too much players will play back at me and then I just give up on the pot.
Pete Read

If you suspect you are not aggressive enough, you are probably right! Some players, like the latest EPT Main Event winner Adrian Mateos, has it naturally, but one of the best players in the world, Phil Galfond, admitted that he had to force himself to play more aggressively.

By calling too much you’ll find yourself in a lot of defensive spots instead of having the betting lead. Try to enter more pots by raising in position. Put in a small three-bet and you’ll get the initiative and a lot of the time you’ll win the pot right there.

If you meet with resistance you’ll often have to fold without a good hand but it’s extremely important not to give up every time if the same player keeps four-betting. As a bonus you’ll have a more aggressive image that will help you to get paid when you pick up a monster and three-bet again.

Live and direct

Do you play live cash games? I know that you play mainly cash games online and I’ve seen you talking about live tournaments, but wondered if you played live cash too and whether there was any changes you make to your game from online?
Ash T

I still play mostly online but I play live cash games when I’m travelling for EPTs and the WSOP. In my opinion the skill levels of live players are lower than online for the same stakes – NL$400 online is comparable with NL$1,000 live.

The dynamics in live cash games are quite different too, with players usually sitting with 300BBs. Raises are much bigger, more players are eager to see flops and pots often become very big. My experience is that players tend to chase draws more and they don’t like to fold when they have a hand even if they meet with big resistance.

Live cash games can be hugely profitable when you sit down with recreational players who are there just for fun, calling and bluffing their stacks away. You have to adapt to this kind of game through and tighten up a bit. Don’t be surprised to see four callers after a big opening bet with Aces, so you can’t fall in love with marginal hands after the flop. Set mining and playing suited connectors can be rewarding when you hit with the deep stacks in play. The best tip is actually to be patient – the right spots will nearly always come along.

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