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Texas Hold'em No Limit Intermediate

Stars vs 888: Week 1 - Live Play on Stars

9,481 Views on 3/11/16

The goal here is to help recreational players make a logical decision regarding which site is best for them in the long run.

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Session 1 – Day1

Time: Between 1pm and 7pm UK time 

Hands: 2,311

Profit: +$18.52

Pretty good start to the grind, we are up almost 2 buyins or so.

Biggest Loser

So we 4bet preflop and hit QQ5 two-tone board where we hold the Ace of Hearts.  He can definitely hold AQ which is 4 combos on this texture, probably (hopefully) not KQ too much, 6 combos of JJ, 6 of TT, maybe 1 or 2 slowplayed KK combos and obviously 1 of QQ. If he is capable of calling down with JJ and TT then we are in good shape. If he doesn’t call down with these hands and also has KQ combos then we are not doing so well with a double-barrel for value.

No way of knowing for certain, but we have already invested a lot of money given it is a 4bet pot (low SPR), and it seems a little bit unlikely that folding AA is going to be correct. Not happy to see QTs, but then again it’s good to know that players are calling 4bets too wide

Biggest Winner

We call preflop seeing as the 3bet is super small, but there is never any good reason to be super excited about the holding at this limits when our UTG open-raise gets 3bet. We flop two-overs and the nut-flush so calling the flop is fine. 

It’s actually very unlikely that the J of Hearts on the turn helps our opponent, since there are just not that many remaining suited hearts that most players are 3betting vs a UTG open. Maybe the odd thing like 7h8h, but a lot of players don’t 3bet this and it is overall way more likely that our opponent has some type of overpair or maybe even set. We certainly don’t want him checking back the turn so it’s a good spot to lead and force him to invest additional money with any overpair type hands. On the river there is not much left to do but shove all-in for value, and it’s nice to see our opponent pay us off with KK which is very likely an overplay.

Other Notable Hands
Hand 1

We squeeze preflop in a late position battle and flop nothing after button calls. Checking is somewhat standard without good backdoor equity. Villain checks and the turn is a Queen. We pretty much have the effective nuts in this case, there is almost no chance that villain has our AQ beaten unless he slowplayed the flop (which would be somewhat bad on this texture). 

We are left with around 1 pot-sized-bet for the river and it seems as if shoving for value will be the best play, especially since our opponent may be a weaker player and inclined to call too frequently.


Hand 2

This hand is somewhat straight-forward vs a weak player. We can tell he is a recreational opponent or “fun player” based on his starting stack.  It’s good to know that players are calling out of the BB vs a CO 3bb open holding T6o. This type of defend is clearly too wide and makes the situation very profitable for us. We don’t need to think twice about stacking off with our set postflop, especially since we know after-the-fact that villain can pretty much show up with every worse offsuit 2-pair combo.


We can’t draw any sweeping conclusions at this stage, especially not based on statistics. We will need to wait for a bigger sample first. There are a large number of regs at the tables and we certainly might expect to see some more weaker players when we switch over to the 888 grind. However, there are clearly enough weaker players to make profiting viable assuming we have the right skill level.

Session 2 – Day 2

Time: Between 8am and 3pm UK time

Hands: 2,576

Profit: -$33.80

 This was basically a very tough day where variance really kicked us hard. We were getting 4bet and cold-4bet a ton, losing all-ins, and just generally getting unlucky.

This kind of thing will happen from time to time on all networks, the difference here is really that we will notice it less on the softer networks. Because bad players are waiting to donate money on the softer networks, our bad-beats come mostly from our profits rather than translating into the type of day we had above.

It's worthy of note that it’s possible the games are tougher since we played this session at off-peak times, but we’d need much bigger samples to confirm this. 

Let’s take a look at some variance.

Hand 1

This was a tough one. It appears at first that we get lucky by binking bottom set on the turn. We raise against our opponents turn lead and he re-raises. There is a chance we should actually be folding here, although there are a number of spots where our opponents are calling down way too wide in this session so we opted to jam for value. It’s always going to be tough to get away from a set at 100bb stacks.

Other things going for us include the fact that our opponent would probably re-raise TT/JJ preflop, and that we still have 20% equity against a made straight. We are also really hoping that he can overplay some 2pair hands such as TJ. We get no information on whether this is true since he has the 89o this time.

So hopefully will be profitable in the long run, but no definite way of proving that just yet, although it's unlikely to be that bad at all, just somewhat unlucky.

Hand 2

Statistical analysis demonstrates that the river bluff in this hand will nearly always be profitable even though it may fail the majority of the time. Pretty much everything about this hand is standard, we just run bad given that the bluff doesn’t work this particular time. He usually doesn’t have a straight, since he’d bet the river himself if he did. And at these limits he should expect us to have a straight the vast majority of the time. So while his call might be ok-ish from a theory point of view, he is likely losing money at these limits with these types of river call.

Hand 3

Another pretty rough hand here. It seems as if we get very lucky on the flop, but our opponent instantly sucks out on the turn. He gives no indication that he might have a boat and just smooth calls on the turn and the river. 

The hand will clearly be +EV for us, we just get unlucky. Worth noting that villain’s line is a long way from optimal and that he should have an easy turn check/raise here. Even if he doesn’t check/raise the turn, he should clearly be check/raising the river. There is no reason not to when he more or less has the nuts. 

So amidst all the run-bad, it’s good to know that there are players around making big mistakes, which should translate into profits for us. 

Session 3 – Day 3

Time: Between 8am and 3pm UK time 

Hands: 2,750

Profit: +$3.49

Let’s have a quick look how everything is going since the end of day 3.

 So we are yet to actually make any profit after a somewhat nasty downswing, but we are roughly even in terms of EV. Day 3 we really noticed that there are plenty of weaker players at the network making suspect call-downs. So it should be profitable games and only a matter of time before the green line starts heading upwards. It remains to be seen whether it will even out over a 12k hand sample though.

This was probably the worst hand of the session.

Worst Hand

We flop the nuts and value bet big. We even over-bet the turn since there are two flush-draws out there. On the river, the backdoor diamond flush completes, but it’s still extremely likely we have a value shove and very unlucky if villain shows up with a flush somehow. 

He also is more than likely priced out of a turn call here given our overbet sizing, so it’s good to see that even though we lost a huge pot, our opponents are making significant errors. 

Let's have a look at some of the hands that should lead us to understand the network is fishy, despite negative results so far.

Hand 1

This is probably not a great 3bet with 66 from villain, but it’s not totally unreasonable either. Calling our jam is pretty horrific though and very profitable for us. We decide to jam since there is a lot of money in the pot after the limper calls the 3bet, and the limper can potentially stack off with plenty of worse hands than with QQ. If one of the two opponents fold, it also means there is additional dead-money in the middle.

Hand 2

In this spot we have a straight and the backdoor flush draw gets there, similar to the first hand posted for day 3. We value-bet here also and expect it to simply be bad luck if villain has the backdoor flush. He calls with top-pair-second-kicker, which is likely extremely bad at these limits on this board runout, but once again, very profitable for us.

Hand 3

More stuff that just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.  This guy manages to call two streets with AT high, very profitable for value. We probably have to tone down our bluffs vs some of the opponents at these limits, because they are just not folding. One of the difficult things that many players struggle with in these games is just how different the good players and the weak players are. There is a huge diversity to the different types of players we meet in the player-pool. And depending on the type of player we meet, the best play might end up being completely different. It just goes to show that we need to be as aware as possible about who we are playing against and not just try to follow our “standard” lines.

To be fair, this guy gets a little unlucky. It’s very unlikely he calls the river unless he spikes an Ace, and it’s very unlikely he spikes an Ace since there is only one left in the deck.

Session 4 – Day 4

Time: Between 8am and 3pm UK time 

Hands: 2,468

Profit: +$38.51

Finally, the tables turn and we actually manage to bink some profit. This was also an early morning session, so it really confirms that idea that we need a huge sample to know if the popular myth that games are tougher in off-peak times is true. This is certainly the case on some of the smaller networks, but Pokerstars network is large enough that there are recreational players at the tables around the clock, minimising the effect of peak/off-peak times. We may find that 888 is significantly more profitable in the evening times given that the overall traffic is lower compared to Stars.

Let’s check a couple of the winners from this session.

Hand 1

This is not the most comfortable of situations on the turn, but seeing as that we are still drawing live against made flushes we have to make the call. We are just hoping that villain has some hands in his range that are not flushes, since we don’t get the pot-odds to call if he always has a flush. We need him to overplay worse sets and occasionally bluff. Anyway, he shows up with 2pair which is way wider than he should, meaning that our turn call was quite profitable in this case at least. He even binks a full house on the river, but it is meaningless.

Hand 2

Our play is not overly remarkable in this hand. We bet smaller on the river since presumably his range looks a lot like TT-AA. It’s really hard for him to have a Kx unless it is specifically Kx of spades. We don’t want him to hero-fold TT-QQ if we make a larger bet. Having said that, it’s still close-ish and there is a pretty reasonable argument for shoving.

Day 5 – Session 5

Time: Between 2pm and 7pm UK time 

Hands: 1,903

Profit: +$19.68

Nice finish to the session. We just about managed to pull around an acceptable winrate after a decent amount of carnage. Expected winrate would be somewhat higher given how we played, but it also seems extremely likely that Stars is simply tougher than 888 is going to be. Sample is only 1900 since we overshot our volume a little on the earlier days.

Biggest Loser

It seems as if we have to make the call on the turn given the price we get and the fact that we may have additional outs with our pair. We miss our flush on the river and our top-pair-second-kicker is typically not quite strong enough to play for stacks with. Better to lose half a stack than our whole stack.

Biggest Winner

Biggest winner was also pretty much a cooler. We top set multi-way and get the money in as fast as possible but villain binks a straight on the turn. We bink on the river (which should happen around 20%), and hopefully villain’s range is wider than just straights.

Overall Graph

Let’s check out the overall graph and overall stats.

Not a super impressive graph overall, although it still works out at around 3.86bb/100 which is not necessarily a bad winrate by today’s standards. Based on some of the play we have seen, it should definitely be possible to make money here.

Total Hands – 12,008

Profit - $46.40

Winrate – 3.86bb/100

Great, enough for some ice-cream and a few beers!

So head on over to the 888 12,000 grind report now, or maybe the final conclusions/analysis.


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