Dara O’Kearney’s Expert Poker Tips: Strategies for Increasing Variance

  • Don’t be afraid to get aggressive and go big with your opening bets
  • Play more hands, but don’t get greedy chasing draws
  • Slow play your monsters – they’ll never see it coming
  • Most bluffers have beards, as they are used to hiding things
  • Always play T5o because it can be used to make any straight
Deuce Seven
If you’re one of the weakest players at the poker table, you will want to increase your variance. Dara O’Kearney is here with tips to help you do just that. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

I recently wrote a strategy piece on how you should adjust when you’re the weakest player at the table (or one of the weakest in the tournament). The basic idea is you should increase variance. In this piece I will go into specifics on how exactly to do that.

Open bigger

In general, open sizings in tournaments are small: starting around 2.3x to 2.5x when the stacks are deep and going all the way down to min-raises when they’re shallow. The theory is that allows more room to maneuver post flop with a higher stack to pot ratio (SPR).

10x is adequate for your premiums like A2 and T5o

Post-flop maneuverability is all well and good when you’re better than your opponents after the flop, but if you’re the donkey likely to stack off with one pair or a draw, then you want it as low as possible. Therefore, I recommend using bigger sizings when you enter the pot. You could 5x, but I recommend 10x as the minimum. 10x is adequate for your premiums like A2 and T5o, but you should increase this with more vulnerable holdings like Kings. I recommend 20x for Kings and Queens, 30x for medium pairs, 40x for the small pairs, and 50x for the pair that needs the most protection (Jacks). That’s if you play it at all (more on that later).

You may notice there’s no mention of Aces above. That’s because it’s the one hand I recommend you limp with, particularly when stacks are deep. This has two big advantages. First, your opponents who have seen you raising huge with your other big hands will never put you on it. Second, you’ll lose less when they get cracked. If the flop comes something scary like T52 rainbow. you can just fold.

Play more hands

It’s an obvious point, but the more hands you play, the greater your variance. I’m not suggesting you play every hand: it’s ok to fold total trash like 92o and trouble hands like JJ and AQ, but in general, you should open almost everything else. However, be careful with suited and connected hands. They can get you into trouble when they flop draws.

the cards in the bottom half of the deck can’t come on the turn or the river

Most people think draws come in more often than they do. The simple (but incorrect) theory is that if you have two cards of a suit, and the flop contains two of your suit, you’ll hit one of your nine flush cards on the turn just under one-fifth of the time (9/47 to be precise), and the same on the river. However, this logic overlooks one indisputable fact: the cards in the bottom half of the deck can’t come on the turn or the river. Most of the time, half of your outs will be in the bottom half, so you’ll actually only hit your draw half as often as most people believe. Don’t chase draws!

Slow play your monsters

If you open 40 big blinds with pocket Twos (the recommended size), get four callers and the flop comes AKQ all hearts, you should go all in immediately to charge people to suck out on you while you almost certainly have the best hand (if not, it’s just a cooler).

let someone with AA think they have the best hand

But if the flop comes A22 with two hearts…check! Let someone bluff at it, or let someone with AA think they have the best hand. If the flop checks through, check the turn too. Same deal for the river – someone will always take a small stab (if not, it’s just a cooler).

Never fold to anyone with a beard or breasts

It’s widely known among pros that most bluffers have beards. It makes sense when you think about it: anyone with a beard is likely trying to hide something, even if it’s just a weak chin.

This man cannot be trusted. Look at that beard. Call his bluff. [Image: David Lappin Twitter]

You should also never fold to a woman. Not because they bluff very often (most don’t, since they don’t have beards), but imagine the shame of folding to a female only for her to slam a bluff down on the table and put it on Instagram. So call her 20% river bet with the second nuts even if you’re never good.

Always play T5o for any amount

Most people think Aces is the best hand in poker. It isn’t. T5o is. Just ask Ali Mallu. This might sound contradictory given what I said earlier about draws, but the simple fact is T5o is such a powerhouse it almost never misses (if it does it’s just a cooler).

Think about it. Every straight has either a Ten or a Five in it so you can make all the straights. It’s almost impossible not to have a straight by the river, so just hang in there even if the flop comes A88 or 555. However, it’s better to stick to T5o which is a much stronger hand than T5s. T5s can only make one quarter of flushes, whereas T5o can make half.

So there you have it: follow the guidelines in this piece when you think you’re the worst player at the table to ensure you will be.

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