The poker chronicles volume 1

Some thoughts on how to perform at the poker table. Photo by Eric Sandler

Sports gambling is a diversion in which a gambler thinks he holds an edge over the sportsbook according to their knowledge of a team. Yes, it takes a skilled person to be able to win consistently at sports betting, but even a person who is considered an amateur gambler can win at sports betting at any given time. Consistency is important, and that's what only 3% of bettors can accomplish over their sport betting careers. The best gamblers in the world win 57-60 % of their wagers. Although it may not seem difficult, there is a small group of people that can say they successfully do it year after year. If a sports gambler can win 52.4 % of their wagers, they can at least break even. Anything over that is profits, and that extra 5% is quite the difference in growing your bankroll!

Poker is known as a game of skill. A game in which not only do the cards you are dealt matter but also the ability to give the perception of something you don't possess. Texas Hold-em has grown as one of the most popular types of poker being played in casinos everywhere. The way the game is bet and the order of action in which the game is bet gives advanced players ideas of what opponents could be holding according to betting patterns. This makes poker more of a skilled game than sports gambling. On a card table, you can win with bad cards by betting your opponents out of hands. It's not about what you have; it's about what your opponents don't have.

Poker has endless possibilities in the way hands play out. For starters in Texas hold'em there are 169 starting hands.

*13 Pocket Pairs (EX: AA-KK-33-22)

*78 Non-Pair Suited cards (EX: A hearts J Hearts or 5 clubs K clubs)

*78 Non-Pair Unsuited cards

Total= 169

There are really a total of 1,326, But that total also considers suits as distinct, when in fact, before the flop comes, the suits are all actually of equal value. When the flop comes, certain suits held in a players hand, gain relative value.

Knowing your opponent

There are many strategies one can use when playing poker. Some players are aggressive, some extremely tight. On some occasions, you will notice the same players in many pots over the night giving you the reason to believe they could be a "looser" of a player and one that likes to play more hands than others. On the other hand, you notice an opponent rarely calls anything, and when he does he usually shows strong hands. Although it sounds novice, this is one of the first reads a poker player must make when studying his opponents.

Starting Hands

Starting hands (hole cards) are broken up into different categories. Pocket pairs are considered a made hand, as you are already holding at the minimum a pair. Most Pocket pairs are considered the stronger starting hands. We say most because pocket pairs are also broken down into categories.

*BIG pocket pair AA-KK-QQ

*Medium JJ-77

*Small 66-22

Big Pocket Pairs and Suited Aces are considered the strongest starting hands.

Medium and small pocket pair and the bigger to medium suited connectors follow.

Non-Paired, Non suited,  Non connected- at the bottom,  as the card combinations give us the least possibility to make big pairs, straights, or flushes.

Playing Position

Now that we explained the starting hands, your position according to where the dealer button gives hands more strength than others according to where you are seated and when it's your turn to act. The advantage of having a "late" position and seeing how everyone else acts first is something you must use throughout your sessions. While a medium pocket pair looks decent when you first glance at it, your raise from early position followed by a re-raise and a caller, all of a sudden makes those pocket nines look like a fold depending on the bet amount. That is another critical factor: when you are getting the value to call your hand according to how much is in the pot. In some occasions, you will know your hand is not the best hand when calling, but if you are getting the right pot value to call, you can call raises in the hope of catching up because the bets made weren't enough to get you out.  Thats a whole other topic; let's get back to position and how to use it.

So pre-flop, being in the blinds leaves you last to act therefore giving you the best spot before the flop comes, with big blind being king. If you are required to act after the big blind, you are considered early in action and in the most vulnerable spots to act in. One, because let's say you want to limp with a marginal hand, your range has to be that much tighter with so many other players to act after you. A marginal Ace with a 9 (A9) in early position isn't exactly something you would want to limp with often. Say you do, and it goes around and is raised three times the Big Blind, and the button calls, blinds call and now back to you. At this point, you might be getting value enough to call, but the problems you can find yourself in with a weak kicker are what can cost you chips. Calling with the weak Ace after a raise and a caller leaves you hoping for what flop? Of course, something like two nines on the flop would work but what happens when that Ace pairs on the flop and now the action is once again to you first. Can you believe the original raiser of having a big ace? What if they were playing two face cards that were not an ace or a medium pocket pair and the callers the same? At this point now you're having to make a play with a marginal hand and are forced to either bet to see where your opponents are, or check-call or check-raise to them with the expectancy of a call. All of these decisions while holding a marginal hand.

Reading your opponents and separating the aggressive from loose players and knowing how to use the button and your position is vital to growing as a poker player. Master these two elements and treat the game with simplicity. The fewer situations you find your self in on the table, the better. When you put your money in the pot, know what you're trying to beat and what you're looking for.

Like I mentioned earlier, poker hands have endless possibilities and strategies are plenty. I'll be giving out some of my poker approaches and views on how to better your game and become a winning player through various articles.

Any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter


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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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