As we gear up for the May 30 start to the 2008 WSOP, I have been noticing a number of bad habits at the $25/$50 NL Hold’em Tables at Party Poker. And it isn’t just one or two players making the same mistake – it seems as though it has become generally accepted play to fold when facing 2.5+ to 1 odds on your money pre-flop.

So here are the three most common mistakes I have been seeing over the past few weeks on the highest stakes games publically played at Party Poker. And more importantly, here is why they are mistakes.

Folding Pre-Flop on the Big Blind to Small Raises: Yes, the difference between those crazy $1/$2 tables and the $25/$50 ones is that people actually fold before the river when the stakes get higher. But I have been seeing way too many Big Blinds fold pre-flop to small raises. The most common one goes down like this: everyone folds around to a player in late position who raises to $125 making the pot an even $200. This then means that the Big Blind has to call an additional $75 to see the flop giving him 8 to 3 odds on his money. So as long as the Big Blind does not think that the raiser has either an overpair or a dominated kicker (A10 v. AK for example) then mathematically, the Big Blind should call. And this is just the math of the situation, ask Phil Ivey about the benefit of calling pre-flop raises on the Big Blind – the table learns to back off when you’re the Big Blind. You really should call when you have 8 to 3 odds as you are playing on the fact that 3 out of 11 times that you face the same pre-flop situation, you will win outright. Remember that an off-suit 7-2 will win 4 times or so out of 11 against suited AK – so the odds are definitely in your favor. This is all on top of the fact that nothing stinks more than a player in late position raising after the table folds around to him. And sometimes you can make a mathematical stretch with a call when you are in early position against a pre-flop raiser because if you do get lucky and hit the flop you can trap rather easily. I’d rather not get into the math behind those so-called implied pot odds but the idea is to loosen up pre-flop, guys – you have to put money into the middle before you can ever get it back.

Ace Queen is not a Monster Hand: In about 45 minutes, I saw three people limp in pre-flop then go over the top for everything holding AQ. Each of them were called and each of them lost more than $4000. Ace Queen is not a bad hand, in fact, it’s a pretty good one. I like AQ – I’ll play the AQ. But it is not, I repeat it is NOT a premium hand. First of all, you are looking for a Queen high flop not an Ace high one. More people must get busted out holding a pair of Aces with a Queen kicker against two pair or a pair of Aces with a King kicker than any other hand. Furthermore, the only legitimate hands that you have dominated pre-flop are AJ, A10, KQ and QJ, other than that you are in a race at best. Again, play Ace Queen, it is a good hand but remember that is a pre-flop underdog to every single pocket pair and a monster dog to AK. In the end, Ace Queen is a trap – not a hand with which to trap.

Don’t Make Loose Calls on All-In Bets: If a player makes an $800 pre-flop bet that so happens to also be an all-in bet, you should be focused on the $800 part not the all-in part. Of course, many times those small all-ins (less than 15 times the big blind) come as what I like to call “re-buy bets” or bets that a player is basically looking to lose then re-buy and get a fresh start. In which case, go ahead and call with an Ace. Remember that this is not tournament play – you are not looking to eliminate players. This is cash game poker and you are looking to make as much cash as possible. There is zero benefit for “knocking a player out” because more often than not, they just re-buy anyways. The reason that you loosen up in tournament play on small all-ins is because there are real money benefits for thinning the field. You do not get extra money for taking someone’s last dollar. In fact, getting involved with pots with small stacks provides you with smaller rewards than mixing it up with big stacks because there is less to be rewarded with.

So keep on rocking the $25/$50 NL Hold’em Party Poker, it remains one of the most trafficked reasonably high-stakes game on the Internet. But please don’t fold pre-flop to small raises. I don’t even understand how people who sit down with $10,000 USD at a table can even fathom folding pre-flop 8 to 3 odds for $75 more. The only theory I can come up with is that people are employing that most horrendous of all online poker activities – the “check/fold” button.

Look, if you disagree with my three previous assertions, fine (you’re wrong, but fine) but please heed this: DO NOT EVER CLICK ON THE CHECK/FOLD BUTTON. It serves no purpose but to allow other players to take pots that they have no business taking with small raises. Give yourself a chance to outplay your opponents – if you are playing on the $25/$50 table you should certainly be able to from time to time.

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