Easy WSOP registration

Updated: February 6, 2006, 3:52 PM ET
By Steve Rosenbloom | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: Send your poker questions to Steve Rosenbloom. He will answer as many as he can each week.

From Chris at Dartmouth: "I was playing online poker in a three-way pot with two players all-in. Me and another player had A-X and the third player had two garbage cards. The board game out with four 4s and another card that did not match any card in anyone's hand. I would think that the best five-card hand would be the four 4s and an ace, and that me and the other player with A-X would split the pot, but for some reason the pot got split evenly between all three players. Can you help explain this?''

No, I can't explain it, because it was wrong and you were right. The idea is to make the best five-card poker hand and the four 4s on the board would force everyone's kicker to play. Highest card and all those that match it would split the pot. Period. Computer messed up.

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From Robert in Detroit: "I know the answer to this question depends a lot on your goals, but if an average player without a large bankroll who is really looking to improve his game, would you suggest playing low- to mid-level limit poker, low to mid-dollar no-limit, or inexpensive tournaments? My goal is to see the greatest improvement in my game, primarily in reading people, effectively changing gears and not giving away information at the table.''

You're right: The answer depends largely on your goals. Maybe solely on your goals. A goal such as seeing "the greatest improvement" in your game is too vague. What does improvement mean? Build your bankroll? For me, that's the object of the exercise. No. 1 rule in poker: Follow the money. First, decide on a game -- tournaments, limit games or no-limit. It seems pretty obvious, but play the game where you win the most.

If you need a lot of action, play low-limit because it seems like no one ever folds. Players become more discriminating with starting hands as the levels rise. If you have a lot of patience, the low-blind/no-limit games are a place to make some money. But understand that those cash game choices differ from tournaments in a lot of ways, starting with increasing blinds that handicap the virtue of patience.

Your more specific goals of reading people, changing gears and not giving away information are different in each of these disciplines. A player who would never call a raise with A-10 in a tournament might do so in a cash game because he's willing to see a flop and maybe take it to the river, knowing he can reach into his pocket for more money if he goes broke. Do that in a tournament, and you go home.

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From Brian in Connecticut: "I play once a week (not my only game) with some very bad players, who call preflop, postflop with anything. My question is, when playing here, if I pick up a strong hand, would you suggest betting heavy to make them pay for the cards, or keep it cheaper and cut your losses because they are going to call either way?''

If you can't bet your big hands big, which hands can you make money on? You have to take advantage of calling stations when you think you have the best of it, and generally that requires good postflop play. Face it, these are the types of games in which players drag you down a lot, but the right play still is to punish the people who chase and play back at the manic raisers when you think they're weak.

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From Rob in Texas: "I was playing a no-limit hold'em game at a local bar where they have weekly tournaments. It is a sort of shootout-style of play. We were down to three-handed. I had an A-6 of clubs, the flop came Q of hearts, J of hearts and 10 of clubs, everyone checked. The turn was a K of diamonds. The first bettor checked, the second [player] bet $600. I called, and the first position folded. The river came a 2 of hearts. At this point, I put him on an ace, same as me. He moved all in. We were roughly even in chips. I saw the flush draw, but figured I had pretty good odds that he didn't have the hand. I called. Turned out he had the same the same A-6 as me, but suited in hearts and made his flush. Did I make the right call, or should I have folded with a straight?''

Turns out, you had no odds on your side. On the flop, you had a 5 percent chance to win the hand. Your opponent was about 36 percent to win, with both of you tying about 59 percent of the time. On the turn, when you hit your straight, you were playing for a tie. You could not win the hand, and the flush draw still gave your opponent a 20 percent chance to beat you. When the flush card hit the river, you should've waited to get your money in when you had the best of it. If you had made a probe bet on the flop, it surely would've been called by your opponent. Another bet on the turn would've been called as well, if not raised by the player holding the heart draw who also had the straight. But those two bets might've given you valuable information that you were up against a hand you couldn't beat. Yeah, they would've cost you money, but not your entire stack.

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From Jon in Florida: "Can you explain in more detail Phil Gordon's 'Rule of 4' when it comes to figuring outs and pot odds? Where does the 4 come from? How does the entire rule work?''

The "Rule of 4" and its companion "Rule of 2'' are shortcuts for the mathematically challenged. Use the "Rule of 4'' on the flop like this: Count your outs and multiply by 4; the answer is a rough percentage of your chances of hitting your hand with the turn and the river to come. Then compare that percentage with the cost of your bet compared to the size of the pot. If your "Rule of 4'' percentage is larger than the cost of your bet percentage, then make the call because you are getting good odds. Use the "Rule of 2'' the same way when you have only the river card to come.

For example, you hold 10-9 offsuit and the flop comes J-8-2, rainbow. Your open-ended straight draw gives you eight outs. Multiply the right by four, and you get 32. That means you'll get a Q or a 7 with two cards to come about one-third of the time. Now, let's say you face a bet of $10 into a $40 pot. You are getting 4-1 odds on your money. That means you need to be able to hit your hand at least once in five times to make a call correct. The "Rule of 4" says you will hit your hand once every three times. Good odds. Make the call.

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From Jeremy in Miami: "I am planning on entering a preliminary (not the main event) WSOP no-limit hold'em tournament this summer and need some advice. When do they start taking entries into an event? How early should I arrive at the casino? Where can I look at the tournament structure (blinds, how often they go up, etc.) in order to plan a strategy? Are there noticeable differences (besides the obvious entry fee) between, say, a $1,000 tournament and a $3,000 tournament?"

You should be able to preregister for WSOP events online. At least, that's what Harrah's World Series Web site (www.worldseriesofpoker.com) says. But when you click on WSOP Preregistration, you get the schedule for the Jeff Gordon Foundation Poker Classic events. I e-mailed Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the WSOP and Harrah's VP for sports and entertainment, to alert him to the problem. You can e-mail him with future questions at jplt@harrahs.com. That's what the WSOP commissioner is for.

Anyway, if you can't preregister online, you can certainly register ahead of time in person at the Rio poker cages. There are expected to be more windows and shorter lines this year. I couldn't find specific blind structures for each event on the WSOP Web site. I'm not sure they're set yet, but last year, most tournament structures consisted of 90-minute levels with antes coming into play at the start of the fourth level (and the ante level, the pros say, is when the tournament actually begins). As for differences in tournaments, one thing I noticed last year was that a lot of amateurs signed up for events that ESPN planned to shoot. Everybody wants to get on television, right? But beware, because the increased number of amateurs resulted in more pros signing up for the same events because they believed they had greater equity against a larger field of non-pros.

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From Zach in Cincinnati: "I play online at pretty low stakes ($0.50 to $1). My question is, as a general rule, when do you feel the caliber of talent dramatically increases online? Are the $0.50 to $1 players as error-prone as $2 to $4?''

In 50-cent games, almost nobody folds. In $2 games, still almost nobody folds. Online play is a lot looser than live play. The anonymity and not being stared down has a lot to do with players making wild moves, in my opinion. Whatever the talent and whatever the level, you still have to be able to read your opponents and understand what their betting patterns mean.

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From Forrest in Texas: "When does Season 4 of the WPT begin to air on TV?''

March 8.

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From Derrick in Texas: "My friends and I are heading out to Las Vegas for my first trip. My poker skills are maybe slightly above average, but I've noticed a breakthrough in my play over the last few months. I was wondering if you could suggest what the best places in Vegas are to try and stretch my wings without losing my shirt.''

If there are some places that are better than others for fleecing the suckers, I don't know of them. The bigger the room, the greater the chance of sitting down at a table with a boatload of tourists (tourists who aren't as good as you, I mean). Of course, the bigger the room, the greater the chance there are some grinders sitting at your table for that exact reason. There are so many poker rooms and so many tables in that city that the best advice is to make sure you pick the right game for you at the right limit.

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Steve Rosenbloom is a regular contributor to ESPN.com, writes a syndicated poker column for the Chicago Tribune, and is the author of the upcoming book "The Best Hand I Ever Played."

Steve Rosenbloom has been contributing to the ESPN Poker Club since March 2005. Along with his contributions to ESPN.com, Rosenbloom writes for the Chicago Tribune and is the author of "The Best Hand I Ever Played."

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