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Best of Ryan McLane

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Using my girlfriend

23 March 2007

I'm pimping out my girlfriend this weekend.

That's right - Chrissy Newcomb is going to work for me on Sunday, with the potential to earn somewhere around $40,000.

Foxwoods is offering a $300 Ladies No-Limit Hold'em tournament this weekend. Last year, the event drew more than 300 lovely ladies, creating a prize pool scenario that would make any man drool. This time, despite lacking certain attributes, I plan on winning a piece of it – with a little help from Miss Newcomb.

After winning the first live tournament she played, Chrissy has regularly attended my poker school - following me around to various New England charity tournaments and online casinos to play some cards. In her short 6-month career, she's made leaps and bounds, earning a profit playing 10-person freeze-outs at Full Tilt Poker and breaking even in her live sit-n-go play.

This Sunday's tournament is her third attempt in multi-table affairs. She won her first and got crushed in her second. But if the third time's the charm rule grants my lady any luck, we'll have much to celebrate Monday (and Sunday night). The $300 is quite a stretch for her bankroll, but as I've said in previous columns, every once and awhile you have to take a shot.

Here's my plan for making Chrissy a champion.

Warm it up

Pre-game preparation is the key to winning any tournament. My student has several flaws in her pre-tournament routine, so working on this aspect of her game is a natural start to my pimping plan.

1.) Relax damn it – Poker is poker no matter what the stakes. Don't walk into the Foxwoods Poker Room thinking "oh my God, oh my God, oh my God – I don't belong." That's what everyone else will be doing. Be confident and you'll pick up some chicks…I mean chips…with nothing but pure balls.

2.) Have fun – Poker is a game. It's not a normal day when you can wake up with a chance to win a year's salary in one 12-hour sitting.

3.) Have a strategy – Poker is a mental game, so go in with a game plan. Decide what your goal is. If you want to win, play hard and try to amass chips. If you just want to cash, just be aggressive with good cards in good position.

Pre-Flop

After six months of playing, starting hand requirements are now second nature to my working girl. She knows what a good hand looks like and she knows what crap is. So remember what you've learned and:

1.) Tighten it up – The tournament structure is sloooooowww. With 50 minute levels and $5,000 chips, tight is right to start. This isn't a sit-n-go where races are necessary. Get your money in when your cards are good, that way, when you hit your hand on the flop, you know you're a favorite.

2.) Don't overplay hands – There's a reason people don't like pocket Jacks – it's not that good of a hand. Try and keep pots small unless you have a powerful drawing hand (suited connectors, A-K suited, and yes, pocket deuces). It's right to isolate with big pairs, but not JJ and lower. These hands are too vulnerable after the flop, so don't commit to much without seeing the first three. Also, remember hands ranging from AK-A10 are drawing hands. They're only really powerful when you heads-up against another weaker Ace.

Show me a flop

1.) Action equals information - You know what you have on the flop, so figuring out what the other people have is the key. Make purposeful bets. If you missed and want to win it, represent. If you hit and want to win it, bet somewhere between half the pot and the whole thing. Your opponents' action will tell you a story about their hand – all you have to do is listen.

2.) Decisions are made here – Several things will go into your flop analysis. Pre-flop reads, position, number of players, strength of your hand, pot-size…the list is endless. So what is the difference between a good player and a bad one? Their ability to play when the flop hits. Decisions you make on the flop, especially bad ones, compound themselves later in the hand. If you played a weak ace, then hit your weak ace on the flop, you may be tempted to turn one problem into three (flop, turn, river), especially when your opponent has a stronger kicker. Think, don't react. Take your time and you will succeed at this crucial juncture and doing so will help you succeed.

You've made the turn

1.) Process the flop information – You've bet on the flop to either win it or get information. If you find yourself staring at the turn in disgust, it's time for plan B. If you played the flop correctly, then turn card should complete the thinking process. If your hand is still the best, end the hand. Don't be one of those players who complain about the river card when YOU had a chance to end it on the turn. If you suspect you're beat, there's no shame in trying to see another card for free. If they outplayed you and bet you off the hand on the turn, then good for them. Trap them when you have a lock.

2.) Fire the second shell – Weakness stinks like rotten eggs. If you smell weakness, load up the betting gun and fire again. Many people will call a flop if they hit second or third pair and even top pair with a weak kicker. Their hope is to get to the showdown without putting in anymore chips. If they're weary you have a better hand, more chips will help their decision making process, and win you the pot. Good players can fire again – be a good player.

3.) Semi-bluffing – If the turn brings you a little gift, say a straight or a flush draw - then bet for value. You've already defined their hand on the flop and they too have defined yours. A semi-bluff (a bet that is made when you're bluffing, yet drawing to power), may win the hand on the turn, but even better, pay off large when you hit your draw on the river. They won't put you on the draw because you bet the flop and the turn, so get value by a.) Winning the pot with the bet on the turn, or b.) Winning a big pot on the river. If you miss the river, you're hand might be good anyway. Check it down and hope for good news.

The River

Most mistakes are made here. Don't make mistakes on the river, they will sink you.

1.) Get some value – Good players make two types of bets on the river: value bets and bluffs. A value bet is made when you're more than 80 percent sure you have the best hand. If you're the first to act and you have the third-best hand or higher, you must bet for value (1/2 to ¾ of the pot). If you have the nuts, bet ½ of the pot to induce a call, or even better, a raise. If you check, and they check, you win nothing with a monster. Now if you have nothing, you need to decide how your previous bets were perceived. If you looked like you were drawing, and you missed, your bluff will get called. So don't bluff! If you represented strength and your opponent appeared to be drawing, then go ahead and try to steal…reasonably. Bet like you're trying to get value, if they missed then cha ching, the bluff prevails. If they make a good call, knock the table and say good call. If you're unsure if you're medium hand is good, check and be willing to call a reasonable bet.

2.) Don't go broke on the river without the nuts – This is one of those "has many exceptions rules," but since there are no more cards, why risk everything knowing you can't win? Too many people desperately try and win these pots with blank hands, only to see an insta-call from someone who value bet their power. Re-raising without the nuts is equally stupid. If you think your hand is good then call and win. Don't re-raise trying to get more chips or to get your opponent to fold when you're not sure you're ahead or you think you're winning anyways. Check it down and see who played the hand correctly. If it was you…hooray! If it was them…live to play another day. Only be willing to go broke when you're sure your opponent will fold - but even then it's a silly bet.

Final Thoughts

1.) Win – Someone has to win the tournament – so why not you?

2.) Pay Attention – Mistakes are made when you're not focused. If you find yourself tired, upset, or frustrated, take a walk. If you're in one of these moods, even Aces can be played poorly. So why sit when you're not mentally ready?

3.) Keep your anger at the doorAngry players are bad players.

Good players understand bad beats are a part of the game, and adjust their play accordingly. Anger also makes enemies.

And enemies are out to beat you. Friends are out to make sure everyone has a good time. Make friends not enemies and they other players will want you to stick around for a little longer – like until the end. When you leave a table, you want people to say, now there goes a poker player…not, thank God she's gone.

4.) Be the raiser not the caller - Be the person with two chances to win.

5.) Draws – Drawing is a part of the game, but don't risk everything on a draw and remember to draw to the right odds. If there's a 3-1 chance of winning the pot (flush) and it will cost you 1,000 chips to win 4,000, the go ahead and draw. But remember , have the best draw. Don't draw unless you can hit close to the nuts, because it might break you when someone else is drawing higher.

6.) Win or lose I'm proud of you anyways :)

Look for updates on Monday to see how Chrissy did!


Mucking McLane
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.