For this advanced guide to poker Jeff Sarwer, one of the most promising poker players in the world (presence at the WSOP or EPT final tables) shared his knowledge with the JohnnyBet users. In this interview you will find useful information about the best software to use or the correct poker strategy. Jeff also reveals the right bankroll management methods and the differences between tournament poker and cash tables. This almost twenty-minute interview can help you to expand your knowledge by relying on the tips of a top poker player.
While reading or listening, make sure you take proper notes as you will learn about all the key tips for professional poker players. This advanced poker guide will expand your knowledge, especially when it comes to poker budget control, how to manage your poker bankroll, how to play poker like a professional and basically how to play poker and win. There are numerous poker tips and poker advice below, so absorb it and learn how to become an advanced poker player.
1. Can you provide us with a piece of advice on how to become a good poker player?
Jeff Sarwer: Well, sure. But in the first place one should answer the question of what profits one expects to gain. In fact, there are two ways of becoming a good poker player. On the one hand you have to spend time on playing, while on the other hand you need to analyse your performance on a regular basis. When playing online we happen to get into our stride and we feel like playing endlessly. Of course, we need to play a lot. But you also need to analyse your play as frequently as possible. I don't know what proportions are suitable but I reckon that we should spend more or less 2/3 of our time on practising and 1/3 of our time on analysing. I will also say something about the various methods of analysis afterwards.
2. Could you tell us something about tools for playing poker?
JS: There are a lot of poker tools based on many different things. First of all, there's a big difference between online and live poker. If you want to be a good poker player you should play online. So I’m going to talk mostly about online poker and about things you should do to improve your skills. Even if you're just a beginner you'll want to analyse hand ranges of your opponents and start thinking about equity, in other words what chances of winning you will have in relation to other players. It's common for beginners to say “Oh, I put him on an ace jack”. Well, the opponent might have an ace jack, but what's the rest of his range?
The basic software used for this is free and pretty efficient. Poker Stove is one of the first programmes which allows players to select a few possible combinations your opponent can have and then to calculate equity.
Flopzilla is similar software in terms of functioning, but it is a bit more advanced. One of the most important things when playing online is to have a HUD. A HUD shows you all the statistics of your opponents and how long they have been playing. What is their range, how aggressive they are - not just after the flop - how often do they do continuation bets, see all bets, how often do they do anything basically. You can check almost anything. You can customize your HUD to have as much information as possible. It is presented in the form of numbers next to players who sit at the table. Now, at some point this might become illegal, but in the meantime while it is legal online everybody should pretty much be using it if they're trying to make a profit playing poker. If you want specific names I recommend PokerTracker, which is one of the best programmes in my opinion. Hold'em manager is equally good. Thanks to these programmes you will be able to save the history of particular hands, which is hundreds of various combinations which can be then analysed. The way you analyse your hands is the critical stage in the process of becoming a better poker player.
First of all, before you find out how to analyse hands it's good to use sources that are available to everybody now. Watch YouTube videos; see how professional poker players “think” through hands and through different decisions. Play around with PokerStove a lot. In a sense, you get to understand the basics of equity, then you understand what semi-bluffs are. All these things are the basics to understanding the value of certain bluffs, the value of certain plays – what those plays mean.
The software is useful once you have an understanding of poker basics. If you're giving a piece of advice to beginner players, the answer is pretty easy. I would suggest using PokerStove, playing around with a load of hands, watching loads of videos online, and playing very, very small stakes, and then see if this can enable you to make a living. When I say micro stakes, I mean $0.01/$0.02 and roughly a hundred buy-ins, which triggers a conservative play. So if you have 200 dollars, you can play like $0.01/$0.02 stakes and play at a few tables at the same time. See if you can make a profit out of that. If not then maybe you're not good enough to take another step.
Once you understand how these things work and how to make a small profit you should keep on watching a lot of videos on how to play different things, then you'll know what to do with a HUD. Having downloaded Poker Tracker, you will know exactly what to do, what information is vital. You'll know how to set your HUD properly and how to export records of hands so that you can directly move to a decision tree. I recommend CardRunners for that purpose. CardRunners EV is a truly good piece of software. I know a lot of players who use it, and thanks to that software they can be precise when working out various schemes and options. Every decision changes a different part of the tree and you can calculate your equity. Comparing our equity with our opponents’ range at this specific table, with specific cards is pretty complicated but, if you're an advanced player, you will find this software necessary to move with the times.
3. Have you got your own poker strategy?
JS: Yes. First of all, game selection is very important. Becoming the best poker player is different than making a lot of money at the same time. If you ask me what the best way to make money by playing poker is, I'd say it is trying to play live poker as soon as possible, because online poker has become very, very hard in the last couple of years. It's still possible to make a profit if you really treat this game as a serious form of education. I think a beginner can regularly win with respect to micro stakes within a few months, yet on the condition that you make regular progress. One should remember that the software can help up to a certain moment. In the first place you need to understand the basics and spend a lot of time watching videos in order to analyse specific hands. In order to find out how it should be done, it’s advisable to join some communities.
“Two plus two poker” community is a great place to analyse hands, so is Poker Strategy. These are good places where you can load hands if you've played and discussed them or comment on hands that other people play. Get involved in discussions because it's very important to use the software properly and to understand how to think forward, how to plan for all four streets, plan for pre flop, flop turn and river. Being involved in those communities is a very good way to start out if you really don't have any other friends who are professional poker players.
4. How should we manage our money during the poker play?
JS: There are some general tips and guidelines that I think are pretty good. In my opinion the range of 50-100 buy-ins is safe, so if you play with $0.05/$0.10 that would mean that a buy-in will equal 10 dollars. It’s called NL 10. If we play with NL 10 you can make a pretty good living doing that if you're gonna play a lot of tables of that. However, nowadays a regular profit in online poker is difficult to achieve. It really is! Seriously. It used to be easier in the past. Playing really safely at NL10 it would be great to have, say, 100 buy-ins, which is $1000. If you're going to be losing, you know a lot, and let's say your bankroll would go down from a thousand dollars to, let's say $800-$700 somewhere in that range – depending on how you feel you've been playing and depending on what your software says, you should go back down to smaller stakes – $0.02/$0.05 or even $0.01/$0.02 on the condition that we can still make profits, which, in my opinion, is not so difficult to achieve. (laughter)
5. If you were to choose the best way of playing poker, what would it be?
JS: My immediate response is live poker, but what is the most interesting is the best way to be a profitable player does not involve poker. You should focus on how you spend your money when you're travelling and on how to minimize your expenses. It costs a lot of money to travel to certain places and to live there. A good friend of mine Faraz Jaka – we have lived together in many houses and travelled a lot – he is one of the best poker players at managing money. That's why he's been in the game. He's been a tournament player for many years, which is interesting because tournaments are very hard earned money because you need to always hit the top few places to be very profitable and that's usually not gonna happen. That might not happen for years so you need a lot of patience and you need to learn how to minimize costs. That's a good way to earn a lot of money. If you hit like the top few places you're getting a ton of money. But if not, it's very hard to be profitable.
Cash games are of course a lot more consistent, but if you're going to play live cash games you really need to reduce costs. I think that players that are winning consistently, who make 1000 or 2000 dollars a month on playing micro stakes with even $0.05, $0.10, $0.25 cents, could still be having a big edge during live games. If they are able to have regular earnings online with those stakes, it means that they can make a lot of money playing live poker (for example, playing with $1 $2), but for that you have to travel. I really recommend France even though taxes and rake are high. However, live poker, including live cash games, is the most exciting type of game. Some of the softest games I've seen were in Berlin at the Spielbank. I could single it out as one of the weakest ever. I've seen some incredible things there over the years. Still, you can see some really good spots where I think you can earn at the expense of a drunk man or a casual gambler. That happens less and less frequently. You won't come across such situations online but you will still find that live in some places. But you have to economise when travelling. This is a key piece of advice.
But if we're just talking online I would say there's really good value in playing 180 man, Sit and Go’s like on PokerStars(Go to). Besides this I think there's a lot of good value in playing mixed games. Currently, when thinking about ‘poker’ people have Hold'em or maybe Omaha on their minds. There is still a possibility to play seven cards stud or razz, which generate considerable profits. As for normal Hold’em, I would say cash games are probably the best way to make money.
When it comes to tournaments, they are relatively difficult for Europeans due to the time of day. If you want to play online and in accordance with schedule and if you want to be at the final table, you have to be awake to 6-7 am. It takes a lot of time and it's really hard to remain focused. If we’re talking about specific places, I reckon that the Canadian west coast is probably the ideal place to play tournament poker. But, like I’ve said, this type of poker is unlikely to provide regular profits because you need to be constantly in the lead, and this requires a lot of luck. Ten times more often you would come between 30th and 3rd than between 3rd and 1st. So if you go through thousands of players and then you're one big, deep run that night or that week was 30th place – that's how it's usually going to be. Usually you will have breaks in making profits, you will even have lost sessions, and you are rarely going to win. Tournament poker is tough. You have to be ready to lose a fair part of your funds and wait for a good position with a huge prize. That's why cash games’ results are far more consistent. I’m sure cash games have much tougher players. In my opinion, tournament players are way less skilled. That's a huge statement to make, but I think you don't get to play as deep as you're going to in cash games. At cash games you can often play hundreds of big blinds deep, and because of this there is less luck involved because it's more consistent money. I think you'll find more regulars making their income there and that is something. So I said it's a counterbounce. To be frank, these days there's profit to be found anywhere online. You have to experiment, keep on trying and move forward. Have a try at sit and go’s, cash games, big tournaments. Get a taste for everything, watch everything closely, and keep on moving, keep on developing yourselves. I think you have to continue to test out the different fields and see. You have to try different things and chart your progress. That's the most important part of all by far. That’s what I’ve said at the beginning, spending the same amount of time thinking about the game and analysing it as playing is vital.
You really have to experiment and play all those different forms of poker to realise which one is the most suitable to you. If you become a regular poker player you can quite easily find a group of people through these poker communities I mentioned before – 2 Plus 2 Poker or Poker Strategy. You could find a group of people together to have skype calls. That's really good for analysing and having weekly calls, or even more often than that, where you talk about all these things and go and try to make money.
6. So good luck?
JS: Yeah, good luck. So it's important to stay involved with other players and see their thoughts. You have to have your own idea of how to play, the idea which will be unique, because if everybody thinks alike the game eventually will make no profit, and the money will probably be earned by the casino. If you want to make a profit you need to be well ahead of the game, and this requires individual thinking and, most importantly, staying up to date with what the other regulars are thinking.