Paul Phua’s followers sometimes ask his advice on poker strategy. Watch this video to discover Paul Phua’s answers on everything from pocket pairs and suited connectors to bankroll size,
This new video interview with Paul Phua is extra-special: here he answers questions about poker strategy that were sent in by followers of the Paul Phua Poker Facebook page and Twitter feed.
First off, Paul Phua explains where he gets his own poker advice from: “l learn a lot from asking players about certain hands,” he says. “And with a few – one or two – closer ones, over drinks sometimes we would talk about poker strategy in our game.”
Of course, not all poker players can talk strategy with the likes of Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan and Dan “Jungleman” Cates, as Paul Phua is able to! But it is still a good idea to find players you admire, and seek their advice on how to play problem hands.
Paul Phua says he also watches a lot of poker videos on YouTube, finding tips on strategy in the real hands played by the top poker pros.
“The one that is very fascinating is the WSOP Main Event,” says Paul Phua. “You can learn a lot from watching the pros play those hands. Sometimes l watch it and, say, ‘Oh yeah, l have encountered a situation like this before, and l played that hand badly, l should have played it this way!’ Also, you know, you have videos on cash games on YouTube, on certain channels or on certain poker sites, which are very useful, like ‘Poker After Dark’ in the US. I myself find it very helpful.”
And now, on to the questions sent in by followers of Paul Phua Poker!
How do you play small pocket pairs?
Paul Phua says that “generally people go set mining with a small pair”. Set mining is when you call a small bet pre-flop, hoping to hit a set on the flop. Since there is only a 12% chance of this happening, and you will usually have to fold if you do not hit your card, set mining makes sense only if you stand to win at least eight times your pre-flop bet. Therefore it is best done when you and the other players are deep-stacked. If you are not deep-stacked, or if you are acting in early position, it is safer to fold small pocket pairs.
But sometimes, Paul Phua adds, he would raise with small pocket pairs. “If you are on the button and the small and big blind are amateur players who you think you are superior to, you can raise with a low small pair, too. Even in the cut off. It all comes back, for me, to who am l playing against. If I play against a pro l will not raise pocket fives in this spot.”
Under the gun with medium suited connectors, what do you do?
A common mistake made by less experienced players is to limp-call with medium suited connectors when first to act pre-flop. They look so pretty, and have such potential, how can you fold? And yet they are not strong enough to raise with. That’s why a call seems like a good move.
That’s wrong, says Paul Phua! If you limp, it is likely someone else will raise, and then someone else will re-raise after that, meaning you have to fold and lose the precious chips you have invested. Even if you get away with it, you are playing post-flop in a weak position, without having seized the initiative and the potential for a semi-bluff that comes with having raised pre-flop. “l would say 99% of the time it’s either raise or fold for me,” says Paul Phua.
Is there any way to tell from a raise whether a player has AK or a big pair?
There is a big difference, says Paul Phua, between playing poker against pros and amateurs. He says you should never try to guess the hands of poker pros by their stack size. Poker pros have learned that the size of your bet can be the biggest tell of all. Therefore they either keep their pre-flop bet sizes entirely consistent, or they vary them in a semi-random way.
Amateur players, however, will often signal exactly which starting hand they have by the amount they bet they bet pre-flop. Paul Phua explains that with Ace-King, they might open for 5X of the big blind or re-raise 5X the size of another player’s opening bet. With Aces they might open for 3X of big blind or re-raise 3X someone else’s bet size, while with pocket Kings it might be 4X. “In those situations against amateur players,” says Paul Phua, “you kind of get a guess of what their card is by their bet size.”
Should you play more tightly on a limited bankroll?
There is a common expression among poker players: “scared money”. Someone is “scared money” if they sit at a poker game that is clearly too big for their bankroll, and are therefore nervous about raising, or calling big bets. As a result, they cannot play optimally. Additionally, more experienced players will sense their nervousness and take advantage of it, commonly making bets so big that the “scared money” player will fold, even if they probably have the best hand!
“With a small bankroll it’s very hard to play the game,” says Paul Phua. “In certain situations you are pressured, where you can’t play your normal game: you should call but you fold it, because you have not much bankroll left. My advice is try to get a sizeable bankroll for certain games.”
In the bigger games, such as the Triton High Roller Series tournaments or the cash games Paul Phua regularly plays in, even the top poker pros often get “staked” by other players, so they are not risking too much of their own money. Amateur players of course do not have access to such investment! So they should play for smaller stakes (online poker sites offer games of all possible sizes), meanwhile improving their strategy through the advice of poker pros such as in the Paul Phua Poker School videos. Only when they have improved enough and built up a big enough bankroll should they move up to a bigger game. For more advice, see “How to manage your bankroll”.