In the Money by Antonio Esfandiari

TITLE: Book Review: In the Money
Author: Antonio Esfandiari
Genre: Poker
Rate: 0-5: 3.5
Date Read: Oct 2018
Series: Go All-In with World Poker Tour Winning Strategies
Other Books to consider: Shuffle Up and Deal: by Mike Sexton and Making the Final Table: by Erick Lindgren

Brief: First of all, Antonio admits he has a huge ego, as do most if not all Loose-Aggressive poker players. It comes with a CD of poker chip tricks, cute but worthless. It starts out with a little of an autobiography which is interesting. He covers a wide range of game types as well as player types. No Limit vs Limit. Cash games verses Tournaments.

Antonio is a fearsome accomplished professional poker player and his advice is very worthwhile. This book is directed toward getting in the money while playing cash games, same as mine which is to make a profit. I differ in one basic tenant from Antonio’s philosophy though for tournament play. My goal is to get in the money, while Antonio’s is to win the tournament.
You can not care about the money while playing poker. It should be money put aside that you do not need for any other purpose. It should be money you can afford to lose. Making money is your ultimate goal.
Always spread maximum disinformation and poker is a game of incomplete information. Don’t care what people think of your play. Table image is critical to your success. Only play when you have the edge. That edge can be cards, position, table image, or sensing weakness.
Poker is a skill, not a gamble. Do not take time off, observe the players and their play when you are not in the hand. The moment you think you can go on autopilot and run over the table is when you are sure to get a rude awakening. Every player is going to have losing streaks.
Position is the name of the game in every type of poker game. Limit hold’em is a science while No Limit holdem is an art. Be willing to take calculated risks and the risks are different in each type of game.
Playing cash games is completely different than playing in tournaments. Both are marathon games, but cash games are measured over a longer period of time, like weeks and months. You can always buy back into cash games, but tournament games are limited in how many times you can buy back in.
There is no substitute for experience at the poker table. Learning the fundamentals is essential before you even sit down. If you are not having fun, quit.

Compared to: “Every Hand Revealed” by Gus Hansen, I like Gus Hansen’s book better, but it’s about playing in a tournament though, not cash games.


Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker

Table Type vs Player Type

Table Type vs Player Type
There is a huge difference between the two. You want to play at a table that is opposite your playing style.
At a tight table, if you are a tight player, you must play even tighter, so you had better take some WD40 with you and loosen up a little.
At a loose table, if you are an action player, and loose aggressive players fit this mold, bring lots of money because the win/loose variance will be swinging wildly.

Table Type
Tight or Loose. Characterizes the number of players who see the flop.
Tight tables have few players that play, usually 3 or less. Loose tables have at least 4 who like to see the flop.
Tight tables are usually not as profitable as loose tables, since fewer players see the flop, because tight players will play more rationally than loose players.
♠You want to be at a loose table but not an overly aggressive one.
Play the opposite of the table style.

Passive or Aggressive. Characterizes the betting.
Tables where many players fold or check most streets are passive. Tables where many players call or raise and re-raise on each street are aggressive.
♠With passive players it’s usually easier to get them to fold when playing aggressive.
Aggressive players though play too many hands and are easier to trap when you have better hands.
Both require patience and balance. You want to keep a player in the hand when you have the nuts.

Players Types
Tight or Loose characterizes the number of hands the person plays.
Passive or Aggressive describes the player’s betting style.

Loose-Aggressive players should be divided into two parts:
Action-seekers and solid players.
Action seekers
are more loose-aggressive prior to the flop and may even slow down a little at the flop, but will usually put in a minimum raise or continuation bet or raise after the flop.
Solid players will switch from small ball betting to continuation betting in order to maximize their edge.
♠You will make much more money off action seekers or loose players than tight or passive players and even less when up against a solid player.
Most of the low stakes cash games are filled with loose aggressive players as are most low entry tournaments.

Tight players will usually make small bets and play few hands.
A tight player will try to take advantage of starting hand selections to increase their chances of drawing to a winning hand.

Loose players will usually only make small bets but play as many hands as possible. They are not action seekers, as they tend to fold when raised.
A loose player plays far too many hands. Usually a novice with an “any two cards can win” philosophy. They will see the flop most of the time and will often play to the river with marginal hands.

♠Loose tables can be profitable for good players, but excessively loose tables can be unprofitable for tight players, since they often lose to lucky draws by bad players or just plain bad beats.
Loose players will play almost every hand to the flop, raise potential hands after the flop and usually play to the river.

Aggressive players will usually raise when in-position and frequently 3 bet at the flop.
Passive Players will usually only call and rarely play out of position.
Solid Players will play their hand for maximum value with minimum risk.

♠The better players are Tight-Aggressive.
♠The best players, and most profitable, are Selective-Aggressive or Solid Players.


Mr Lucky Poker

Mr Lucky Poker

The Four Success Principles of Poker

Republicans playing poker2
Principle No 1: The Strength Principle
In general, you want to bet your strong hands, check your mediocre hands, and fold (or sometimes bluff) with your weakest hands.

That shouldn’t be too hard – NOT?
Obviously you want to bet your very strong hands to build a bigger pot when you’re likely to win. With your middle hands you better check because it’s harder to make money when you bet these. Better hands than yours are likely to call or raise, while weak hands probably fold. Folding your weakest hands is quite obvious. Bluffing with your weakest hands might be not so obvious, but then again if the bluff works, you’ve gained value from a hand that had none.

Principle no.2: The Aggression Principle
The risk of never challenging is always greater than the risk of challenging.

“War is about power and the ‘card game of power’ involves spilling blood, creating sorrow, abusing others, AND betraying trust, assuming success, the ability to squirm out of tight spots. Raising bets to their highest to reduce the field and making your mediocre hand better, these are the coin of power, not goodness, not light.” Victor Lee

“In a balance of mutual terror………… Whoever acts first, has the advantage!”

In general, aggression (betting and raising) is better than passivity (checking and calling).

Aggressive actions have two possible outcomes:

  1. your opponent could fold to your bet, or
  2. he could call your bet and you may win at the showdown.

Passive actions, in the contrary, have just one, at the showdown

2 options are better than 1.

Principle no.3: The Betting Principle
In general, a successful bet must be able to do one of 3 things:

  1. force a better hand to fold,
  2. force a weaker hand to call, or
  3. cause a drawing hand to draw to unfavorable odds.

A bet can thus make money in three ways.

  1. If you can chase away a better hand, you won a pot you normally would have lost.
  2. If you get a weaker hand to call, you’ve got more money into the pot.
  3. The same goes if you let somebody call a draw at unfavorable odds

If you don’t think a bet could accomplish one of these things, just don’t bet.

Principle no.4: The Deception Principle
Never do the same thing all of the time.

This is quite clear. Be unpredictive!
In order to be successful at poker, you need your opponents to keep guessing;

  1. about your bets,
  2. your folds,
  3. and how you play the ranges of hands you do play.

Use the Second-Hand decision:
I first encountered this in one of Dan Harrington’s books.)

Look at your watch when you have to make a decision, if the second-hand is in-between the 9 and the 12, do something different than you would normally do – and check or limp or Call or BET.
It’s a random action and it will keep them from pushing you too often.

Out of position, using 10 to 12, is about a 17% variance in your normal action (counting the 12)
In position, using 9 to 12, in position, is about a 23% variance in your normal action (not counting the 12).

Randomness will keep them guessing and improve your tight image. You can use a different random trigger on the flop, turn, or river, like which suit is the first card on the flop, to use as the triggerBe creative, but be consistent!

Harrington on Holdemv1


Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker

The 10 principles of the Art of War and Poker.


The 10 principles of the Art of War and Poker.

1. Understand all of the potential consequences of your actions so you may properly balance the competing goals of survival and chip accumulation.

2. Play each hand for maximum value with minimal risk.
*Loose Table vs Tight Table Strategies*

3. If you have the opportunity to eliminate your opponent, you must do it.
♠Eliminate your Adversary.

4. Take advantage of any opportunity to accumulate chips from your opponent.
♠Raise the Stakes – Play Big Stack Poker
Once you gain a substantial chip lead, you strengthen your force,
allowing you to attack your opponent more effectively.

5. Mix up your play so that your opponent cannot get a read on you.
When your opponent is unable to comprehend your play,
he cannot completely control his own play.

6. If you know the enemy and know yourself, you will have the opportunity to exploit the situation to your benefit.

7. Play strength to maximum value when your opponent is weak.
You cannot afford to wait for every factor to be in your favor in order to make a play for the pot. Stay abreast of the situation so that you may take calculated risks to create an edge where none is perceived.

9. The situation is constantly changing in No Limit Hold’em Tournaments. Know how all of the factors comprising the situation are changing so that you may adjust your play accordingly.

10. Poker is an art of deception.

    War is about power and the ‘card game of power’ involves spilling blood, creating sorrow, abusing others, AND betraying trust, assuming success, and the ability to squirm out of tight spots; Raising bets to their highest to reduce the field and make your mediocre hand better). These are the coin of power, not goodness, not light.” Victor Lee


Mr Lucky Poker

Poker – The Liar’s game of “Go Fish”


Remember the good old days as a kid and playing Fish with your brothers, sisters, friends and family?

Poker is the same game, but with a twist.

In the game of Go Fish, you are looking at cards in your hand and asking someone if they have one. If they do, they have to give all of them to you and if they don’t then everyone else playing knows what you have in your hand and can ask for it. In the kids’ version of Go Fish, you could not lie. You could not ask for cards you did not have and they had to tell the truth. If they had some they would give them to you or tell you to “Go Fish“.

Poker, on the other hand, is all about lying. The big difference is that you are not asking what specific cards someone is holding. Poker is a game where players play different ranges of cards. Loose players may play a large range of cards and tight players may play a narrow range of cards, all depending on how much they like to gamble, or how much risk their money is worth.

When you make a bet, you are actually asking a question of your opponents. If you are the first one to bet pre-flop, you are really asking the players if they can beat the range of cards you are representing. That’s why poker players are fond of saying, you don’t play the cards, you play the player. No one knows what any one else has. After a time they know pretty much which cards you like to play and how those cards may vary from position to position at the table.

If you are a tight player and everyone knows you are a tight player and you are the first to bet, you are basically telling them, I have great cards so you had better have a monster hand to beat me. If you are a loose player and every one knows you are a loose player, you a basically saying I have cards I think have the potential to beat your cards, so you had better have a monster hand to beat me. You tell them this by the size of your bet and how much you believe it is the best hand or can become the best hand.

The game gets interesting according the various types of players you are playing against. Loose players gamble more and tight players gamble less, but both players have to lie from time to time. Loose players lie more, based on the fact that they are involved in lots of hands. But on a percentage basis, a tight player can actually be lying more just by playing slightly more hands.

It’s even more interesting when you factor in the probability of hands into the number of liars playing a hand. If the fact that, at a full table, someone will get pocket pairs once every 16 hands, then when a normal 3 times the big blind bet is made and 2 call and one raises, then more than one person is representing that they have pocket pairs, which means that there is at least a better than 50% chance someone is lying. Of course, poker players don’t lie, they bluff! They can bluff meekly or they can be an extreme bluffer and bluff often.

After the flop is where the real art of the game comes into play. Each bet then is a series of questions about who has what and who believes what they are being told. If you believe the person who bet first had a good playable hand before the flop, is it still a winning hand after the flop?

Since the experts tell you that most hands miss the flop, then the question is which of those liars with pocket pairs will believe someone hit their hand and now their hand is beaten by a higher pair or a better “made” hand? And if they weren’t lying, can you get them to believe you actually did hit your hand or that you really had a real pocket pair pre-flop and now you have a set or better?

The strength of the truth or lie will come in the strength of the question. And the strength of the question may be masked weakly, by a strong hand in order to get more money into the pot. The question can be asked strongly, by betting more than the other players are willing to risk and scoop up the pot now. Of the two most common types of post flop bets, which is the truth and which is the lie? Is the PROBE BET, usually less than half the pot, really saying, “I have some of the flop, maybe not the top pair, but second pair or the nut straight or a flush draw“, the truth? Is the VALUE BET, usually half the pot or more saying, “I think I have the top pair or better“, the truth?

That’s what makes poker so great. You get to ask the players what they have and they will tell you. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s the stoic old player that never talks or the brash young player that not only talks but animates the antics of an answer to the world. They do this by folding or betting. They do this by not saying a word, or by saying loudly, many words. But after the silence or the noise, comes the answer in the form of a bet or non-bet.

It usually isn’t until you reach the river that you learn who bluffed or who lied and who didn’t.

I think I’ll start telling people to “Go Fish“, more often, then make my bet or non-bet. Which will start to mean, “I have a great hand so let’s go to the river – ALL-IN“!


Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker

Big Fish – Small Pond or Small Fish – Big Pond


The goal is to be the biggest fish in the pond, no matter how many fish are in the pond and AA is usually the biggest fish in any pond. You could look at the Flop, Turn, and River as food to make you an even bigger fish or just the evolution process.
The size of the bet could be considered the bait and it takes a big fish to eat lots of bait. Lots of bait tends to attract some fish and they may just be able to grow or evolve into a big enough fish to take all the bait. The action on the Flop, Turn and River will help determine the evolution process of the rest of the fish and if you should just cut your bait and run.

The first one in the pond usually thinks they can be a big fish, but the more fish there are in the pond, the bigger you have to be. You really don’t want to be a small fish, like most drawing hands tend to be, in a big pond, like one with many players. You can also relate the size of the splash in relation to the size of the fish and some players really like to splash their chips into the pond. But is it a big fish splashing or a belly flop, both make big splashes?

The size of the pond is important too. Position helps you determine how big you need to be or if you have the potential to grow into a larger fish. I’ve seen a few dead whales on the beach, so AA isn’t a sure thing, especially in a pond with lots of action and evolution options. If there is only one other fish in the pond, jump in, the water tends to distort the size of the fish anyway. The same think can be said of any action or lack there of. Of course, the possibility of the evolution process will be the determining factor.


Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker

Are you way Ahead or way Behind?


Are you ahead or behind?
A “Way Ahead or Way Behind” situation requires the following:
♠ You are heads up, before or after the flop, and you at least have a pocket pair or have paired the board.
♠You do not know if you are ahead or behind.
If you are ahead, your opponents have few outs (typically two or three).
If you are behind, you also have few outs.

When you have a lot of hands that can beat you, what do they bet, if they are first to bet?
Over pairs want action. (They bet enough to keep you in the game or check raise)
Higher top hands, 2 pair, sets, straights and flushes, want action, unless they are on the low end. (They bet enough to keep you in the game or check raise)
Nut hands want action. (They bet enough to keep you in the game or check/check)
Nut Draws don’t want action. (They bet more than enough to get you to fold or just check)
Straight/Flush draws don’t want action. (They bet more than enough to get you to fold or just check)

♠The bottom line is Why is there action and Where is it coming from?”
If you are in the hand, you want to control the action. You don’t want to much, unless you have the nuts. Loose Aggressive players want action, but they want to keep it to a minimum number of players. They will typically 3 bet to reduce the field and get heads up to try to take down the pot.

Keeping you/them in the game.
Nut hands could go for a check/check or a check/raise on a “wet board“. They will also try to bet low enough to disguise their hand on a “dry board” hoping you will raise them. Some will use a blocking bet as a sign of weakness so they can re-raise you.
High top hands are more likely to go for a check/raise on a “dry board” and usually go for a value bet on a “wet board” hoping there is no re-raise, only a call.
Over Pairs are more likely to try to take the pot down on a “dry board” and at least value bet on a “wet board“.
Nut Draws want to limit the field on a wet board so they are more likely to make at least a continuation bet.  On dry board they are more susceptible to made hands like middle pairs and low pairs as well as a set, so they are more likely to make a blocking bet or just check.
Straight/Flush Draws on a wet & dry boards are more likely to make anything from a blocking bet to a value bet to try and see where you are in the hand.

♠Pot control is the key!
Controlling the size of the pot in your favor is crucial to your success as a poker player. The theory is simple. Reduce your losses to a minimum and increase your winnings to a maximum.

When you have hands on the extreme end of the scale, putting this theory into practice is fairly easy, if you have the nuts, you pump the pot; if you have rags, you fold.

You want to play “Small Ball”.
You want to control the pot and keep it small by betting and checking. If you automatically fold every single time you’re in this situation, you’ll lose every pot.
Players with a better hand will be wanting to extract maximum value for their hands as well. Keeping it “Small” also allows for the raise when you have the NUTS.

Any constant loss is a leak in your game and with too many leaks you’ll cease to float. Before you can decide how to play the hand, you have to figure out which opposing hands are good for more action and which hands are bad for more action.

♠Control the action, control the pot and wait for your spots to punish your opponents. The most important concept to remember in a “way ahead/way behind’ hand is that the only players willing to call a large bet will be the players who have you beat. You want to avoid large bets and large pots, especially against players with larger stacks, unless you have the NUTS.

Don’t get greedy! It will ruin your game!
Good poker is not a Loose Aggressive Action oriented game, it’s a patience game. Players who are able to control the pots and play the grind, are the ones who still have chips left when the perfect situation arises. That being said, you want to be a Selective Aggressive player. When you are in a hand, you generally need to be aggressive.

A “Dry Board” is when the cards on the table mean that it is unlikely or impossible that any player has made a strong hand like a straight or flush or a set. — e.g., a “rainbow” flop
A “Wet Board” is when the cards on the table make it possible for players to have hit strong hands. When there is a pair or they are suited or connected in ways that provide many possibilities to make straights or flushes, or to provide draws for either or both.
A “Blocking Bet” is an abnormally small bet made by a player out of position intended to discourage a larger bet by an opponent. Also used by a player in position as an inducement to raise or at least call.

♠Pre-flop bets.
Out of Position bets. (Usually the first to bet.)
AA-QQ, look for a typically low call or blocking type bet.
JJ-AK, look for a typically higher bet or raise, like a value bet or even a pot bet.
AQ-TT, look for a value type bet, 3x the big blind to 1/2 the pot.
Middle Pairs, look for  value type bets or about 1/3 the pot.
Low Pairs, look for 3x to 5x the big blind.
Broadway Hands (AKQJT), the higher in rank, the lower the bet.
Suited Drawing Hands (Flushes), trying to keep the pot small and avoiding too many players in the hand.
Straight Draws, keep the pot small, more likely to just check/fold.

In Position bets.  (Usually the next to bet.)
AA-QQ, will usually make a minimum re-raise with one player or two players in the hand, may only call with 3 players in the hand. Will usually go All-in with a raise and a re-raise prior to their bet. AA is more likely to just call a minimum raise and/or re-raise, after some feigned weakness or hesitation. KK will more likely re-raise any bet and just call any re-raise.
JJ-AK, want to limit the field and will likely re-raise to about 1/2 the pot.
AQ-TT, want to limit the field and are likely to min-raise.
Middle Pairs & Low Pairs,  want to limit the field and are likely to make a value bet.
Broadway Hands & Suited and Straight Drawing Hands, want to keep the pot small and may use a blocking bet or min-raise to find out if there are any aggressive responses. Those with a Ace though, may want to see if they can see the flop cheaply.

♠It’s a constant battle to “Know When to HOLD’em and Know When to FOLD’em”.


Mr Lucky Poker
Mr Lucky Poker