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Middle Limit Hold'em Poker
by Bob Ciaffone
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This book is written for the player who knows how to play hold'em and wants to improve his or her proficiency and move from low limit to middle limit, specifically when playing in public cardrooms or on the Internet.
The authors explain the theory behind middle-limit hold'em and illustrate it with hundreds of examples (five hundred hands). Every phase in a hand's development is explained in detail with key ideas and a set of problems. A thorough analysis is given on how an expert player would approach each problem. The book is broken into seven topics: Holdem Concepts, Preflop Play, Play On The Flop, Play On The Turn, Play At The River, Special Topics (bluffing, checking and calling, check-raising, etc) and Non-Standard Games. Also a page on Flop Odds Against Improving On Next Card.
Read a review of Middle Limit Hold'em Poker

Showdown Shame -- Part III

In my previous columns, I discussed the rules for showing hands at the end of a deal. You can see that the traditional rule that every player can request to see any hand at the showdown is a bad ruleBob CiaffoneBob Ciaffone is one of America’s best-known poker players, writers, and teachers. He has numerous poker tournament wins and placings, the most prominent being third place in the 1987 World Championship. He has been a poker teacher since 1995, with his students having earned well over a million dollars in tournament play.  Bob's website is  that must be scrapped or modified. However, none of the changes from the traditional view now being used are doing a complete job of rectifying the situation.

Here is a situation that I think neither the traditionalists nor the revisionists handle properly. In a hold’em game, on both the fl op and the turn, Player A, acting first, checks, Player B bets, and Player A calls. On the end, Player A checks and so does Player B. Our present rules state that Player A shows first. I do not like this at all. When some guy bets you all the way through, then checks on the end, why should you have to show and he does not? Isn’t it more relevant who was carrying the betting than who was acting first? I suggested in 1987 when we were formulating the rules for the Las Vegas Hilton cardroom that the last show of strength should have to show first.

However, I have to agree with critics that backtracking through what might be several betting rounds to determine this is the wrong way to go. But why can’t we backtrack just one round? What I suggest is, if the betting is checked on the end, the previous round of betting — which is the last of the betting rounds in which there were still cards to come — is used to decide who shows first. Only if there was no betting on that round do we then go clockwise from the button to show hands. Let’s discuss a situation from no-limit hold’em in which the tournament directors have the right idea and the money-game cardroom managers are doing things the wrong way. On the turn, the player with position makes a big bet that puts his opponent all in, and the first player calls. At the river, the caller is forced to show his hand, and the guy who made the big all-in bet or raise gets to muck his hand. If you ask to see it, that makes you a big you-know-what. Doesn’t this run against your gut feeling of fairness and appropriateness in poker? It sure runs against mine. I believe that in big-bet poker, the rules of tournament poker that both hands are turned up when someone is all in is also very suitable for money-game play. I remember playing in a Canadian home game in the early ’80s that was hosted by the late Phil Barber, who had this as a house rule. The players all liked it a lot. I think the tournament rule of revealing all-in hands is good in any big-bet poker game. (It is less needed in a limit game, where a player may well be all in simply because he is short on money.)

Here are two principles that I believe must be recognized if we are to take the proper steps to address the problem of showing hands at the end of a deal. First principle: In a brick-and-mortar cardroom, any system that says a hand must be shown upon request has the intrinsic problem that the request can draw ire. In my opinion, the dealer should make sure that any hand that must be seen according to the rules is seen; all the rest of the hands should not be shown no matter who asks. (Naturally, if the player himself wishes to show his hand, as players often do, this is fi ne.) That way, if someone asks to see a hand, either the rules will say the hand cannot be shown or the dealer will have been guilty of not doing his job (and the players will know it). That takes the heat off the requester. Second principle: In a computer-dealt game, the showdown situation is suffi ciently different that it should have a special set of rules. I am a big advocate of recognizing that the Internet is a different medium for poker and should not mindlessly mimic what has been done in the past. The showdown rules are a prime example of a situation requiring different treatment.

The essence of the Internet treatment is that the site has complete control over what hands are shown, and when. I play a lot of no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha on the Internet. I am sick and tired of getting all in on the fl op when acting first, watching the hand being dealt out without knowing for sure what to pull for, and either not seeing my opponent’s hand (when I win) or getting slowrolled (when I lose). Yes, it is only a couple of seconds while I wait to see whether I am going to win, but it sure is a long two seconds. Get those hands faceup and eliminate the problem.

There is another important aspect of Internet play in deciding which hands to show. We have software such as Poker Tracker that keeps statistics on opponents, for analyzing their method of play. And this type of software will continue to improve. We do not want a situation in which those who are using high-tech tools have a large advantage in Internet poker games over those who do not.

That would discourage new players and casual players. To reduce the benefit of statistical analysis of hands, and to speed up the game, I do not think it wise to have to show all the hands clockwise from the button in an Internet game. Just show the winning hand. To put it simply, in a brick-and-mortar casino game, we need to have the hands revealed to find out who won, and on the Internet, we do not. So, let’s show only the winner and get on to the next hand.

Here are my suggestions for optimum rules on showing hands:

Live-Dealer Games

1. In big-bet poker, if a hand is all in and the betting is over, both hands should be turned up before more cards are dealt. (This is the same procedure now used in nearly every tournament.)
2. If there has been betting on the last round, all hands that took aggressive action by betting or raising must be shown.
3. If there is no betting on the last round, the last hand to take aggressive action on the immediately previous round must be shown.
4. If there has been no betting on either of the last two betting rounds, the hands should be shown in the order of clockwise rotation from the dealer. (Players are invited to show a probable winning hand out of order to speed up the game, but are not required to do so.)

Computer-Dealt Games

1. In big-bet poker, if a hand is all in and the betting is over, both hands should be turned up before more cards are dealt. (This is the same procedure now used in nearly every tournament.)
2. Only the winning hand is shown to the table.
3. You can obtain information about the contents of any hand that’s in at the showdown that would have been shown to the table by a live dealer if there has been betting on either of the last two betting rounds. This can be done by either clicking the appropriate place on your monitor screen (normally the number the site has assigned to that deal) or getting the deal’s hand history e-mailed to you. Note that my suggestions are not interrelated. By this I mean any one of them could be adopted if you liked it, without making these rules suggestions a package deal. I hope to get your support for improving our poker rules for showing hands. We certainly need to do better than we are doing right now. 

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