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Vancouver Poker

Posted by vulcans

Vancouver has to be close to the perfect city to play poker in. I was recently reading some blogs written by poker players overseas and I realized just how fortunate I am to live and work in Vancouver. If you are considering playing poker professionally in Vancouver I’ve put together some information you should know.

Take a bike ride around Stanley Park on the sea wall and you will instantly fall in love with the beauty of the city. Here is a picture I took in Coal Harbour (close to where sea wall starts) during a summer sunset. That view isn’t cheap though as it will cost you around $2400 a month for a nice 2bdrm with floor to ceiling windows in a modern building w gym etc. I’ll talk more about accommodation later in the post.


The mountains on the north shore (just a few miles from the city) rise up dramatically offering incredible Skiing/Snowboarding all through out the winter. This is a picture of me snowboarding at Whistler (one of the premier Skiing destination in the world a 1.5hr drive from Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Hwy#1). In this photo I am up in the bowls of Whistler mountain. As you can see plenty of fresh powder…..


During the summer there are incredibly hikes to be had all the north shore and a very cool+free suspension bridge at Lynn Canyon. You can get some great views without the snow.

Vancouver is also one of the cleanest and environmentally conscious cities in the world. Add to that incredibly geography and one of the most sophisticated urban planning operations on the globe and you have a very slick city. There are bike lanes interlaced through much of the city so transportation by bike is very convenient. At the Fairmont hotel down-town they started offering Bike Concierge service for guests of the hotel since it’s a fantastic way to get around the city core.

Lets talk about the poker side of things. Most major networks allow you to play out of Vancouver/Canada. Take your pick of PS, IPoker, Bodog, etc. One advantage is that if you choose a European network the hours will be much better in Vancouver. There is a nine hour time difference between Vancouver and Geneva, Switzerland. So you can be playing between noon and 3pm here on the west coast and that is like 9pm-midnight. That makes for some very convenient hours.

The live poker scene is pretty solid in Vancouver. The two major casinos are the Edgewater located right in the heart of the city by Yaletown. The other major casino where the BC Poker Championships occurs every year is the River Rock which is in Richmond (Where the International airport is). It’s about a 20 min drive into the heart of the city from there. The River Rock is a great place to play around Chinese New Year and they consistently run a deep 2 5 NLHE game that plays more like a $5/$10 game. During the BC Poker Championships they have a high stakes room with a very juicy $10/$25 NLHE game as well as a big 10 20 PLO game. The $10/$25 NLHE game often has several 10k stacks playing in it. It is a 3k minimum buy-in. I have played in it a couple of times and it is very juicy.


You can expect very high quality internet service in Vancouver and should not have to deal with disconnects. For around $40 per month you can get great service with Telus. Shaw is good as well. For poker you will not need to upgrade and get their higher speed service. The basic high speed connection is already plenty fast and reliable.

Living (Housing)

If you are thinking about moving here there are a few places to consider. Kitsilano is a great part of the city just across the Burrard St bridge. This is an interesting part of the city because real estate is very expensive, but there is some relatively low cost accommodation in the form of basements. Traditionally this has been a bedroom community for the University of British Columbia (A very strong Univ if you are looking to take classes). Kits beach is a huge attraction in the summers and you can find a basement 1bdrm for right around $1000 per month. It isn’t going to be super fancy and will probably be in an older character house (tri-plex), but the area is very convenient and relatively inexpensive. I would highly recommend this option so long as you are ok with a basement unit. This kind of accommodation is very common in Vancouver as landowners need some income to help pay their mortgages. Houses in this area go for between 1.2-3million Canadian dollars (roughly equivelant to USD).

If you prefer a high rise building and want a nice view expect to pay around $1400-$1600 for a 1 bdrm unit. 2bdrms will be somewhere btw $2,000-$2,500 for a nice one down town. Within downtown you have “Yaletown” and the “West End”. The West End is closer to Stanley Park and has a great beach area. Here is a picture of the West End in the summer.


Anything west of Burrard is generally categorized as “West End”. This area is a little less expensive in general because the buildings are not all new. Yaletown is the sheikh modern part of the city and a bit closer to nightlife. You’ll pay a bit more to live in this area and generally the units are bit smaller because its newer construction.

Another great place to go if you are looking for lower cost accommodation, but still want some great commercial options, is the Main St corridor. There are plenty of cool little shops and restaurants over in the Main St area. Main St serves as the divider between East and West Vancouver. Generally, as you head further east things get cheaper. Housing is significantly cheaper in this area and it has a cool vibe. Craigslist is a great way to find your housing and BC has very strong tenancy laws so you shouldn't have to deal with a bad landlord.


There is a really cool Car2Go service available for getting around the city of Vancouver. It allows you to pick up a car anywhere in the city (you can see where they are on a convenient app) and drop it off anywhere within the boundaries allowed (covers most of the city). This won’t work if you want to go on a day trip, but is awesome for getting around the city. It costs roughly 40 cents per minute but that includes everything. All you need is a Drivers License and a credit card and they will send you out a card in the mail. These cars are all over the place in the city so I would not worry about getting a car if you are moving here.


Cell phone coverage is a bit expensive in Canada. Expect to pay $70 a month for your cell phone with a decent data plan (2gb per month). That should get you close to unlimited calling time anywhere in the country if you choose the right carrier. VirginMobile is a bit better than the big ones in Canada (Rogers).


There are plenty of great restaurants in Vancouver. Because the city is so diverse you see a variety of amazing cuisine. There is an incredible Indian restaurant called Vij’s that was featured in the NYT (about $30 for a main). Tomo’s (on Broadway) has some very high quality sushi. One of my personal favorites is Trilussa Pizzeria on Main St which has an authentic Italian owner operator (this isn’t high end but it is good). One thing to prepare yourself for is to pay a lot for alcohol if you are dining out. Generally, the Canadian government taxes alcohol heavily so a pint will run you $6 at a pub, and don’t forget about the “liquor consumption tax” which will add a few percent to your bill at the end.


Vancouver is an incredibly green city. With bike lanes that run all through the city, high end party’s having bike valets, and the Fairmont hotels popular “bike concierge” you can get almost anywhere with a bike and some Lululemon gear lol. Vancouver is home to some of the best urban planning in the world and combined with its green bins and general cleanliness the city is one of the most livable on the planet. It seems there are health food stores, yoga studios, and organic butchers on every corner. If you are interested in embracing a healthy lifestyle Vancouver is a great city for you!


This really isn’t what Vancouver does best. On Granville St and in Yaletown there are a number of somewhat trendy places to go out and party at. However, I have to say the nightlife in Vancouver does not compare to what you would find in Vegas or NYC.


The airport is very convenient for transportation to major destinations in the US and the world. There is a great Cathay Pacific flight that will take your directly from Vancouver to NYC or Hong Kong that runs daily. There are also convenient regular daily non-stop flights to London. From those hubs you can go virtually anywhere in the world. If you are headed to Vegas to play poker there are non-stop flights for around $400 that also run daily. Non-stop to LAX will run you about the same.


One downside of Vancouver is you do get a solid amount of rain during the winter months. More than any other city I have lived in you experience the four seasons in Vancouver. There are only a few days every year where the temperature dips to freezing or just below. Normally, if we get snow in the city it never lasts for more than a day or two (the mountains are a different story). Local mountains a 30min drive away have Skiing for several months every year and receive plenty of snow. Nov, Dec, Jan, and Feb get a lot of rain and the days are short with darkness descending around 5:30pm. If you plan a vacation during these months and Ski plenty during the winter they fly by and then you have the incredibly summer to look forward too. Spring and Fall are cool but not too cold and a light jacket should work most days.

Hope you guys enjoyed the blog! Let me know if you have any comments or questions.


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Taking on the Micro Stakes Nit Army

Posted by BlackRain79

taking on the micostakes nit army

Everybody knows that once you get to even NL5 these days the games play pretty tight. With even the slightest bit of table selection NL2 is still primarily a circus. But that level is basically the only stake where that is the case anymore. So people ask me all the time how to beat the tighter games once they move up. Many people seem to think that they are impossibly difficult because everybody is a nit!

Here's the reality

The vast majority of your opponents at NL5 and NL10, and many even at higher stakes, only have one general strategy - "play tight." Therefore, they are only one step removed from being a total beginner. Now this is definitely the biggest step of all. There is nothing that I can tell you or that you will learn in any book, forum, training site etc. that will allow you to beat nits for the winrate that you beat that fish at. But many people seem to equate being tight with being good or at least hard to make money off of. Harder than fish sure but still profitable? Absolutely.

How to Slay Nits

So the first thing that we know about nits is that they play tight. And often at these limits they play way too tight. The beautiful thing about poker is that when your opponents play at extremes like this there is always an answer for it. The obvious answer in this situation is to just loosen up and take advantage of their tightness! The people that come to me and complain about their 1bb/100 winrate at NL10 in the "impossibly tough" games there don't seem to realize that the reason they aren't having any success is because they are a nit like everyone else!

Does anyone get ahead in life by following the crowd? By being like everybody else? No, of course not. If you want to play like a weak nit you are basically just going to trade money back and forth with all of the other weak nits at these stakes. If you want to actually maintain a solid winrate in these games then it is time to play a few (or a lot) less tables for awhile and learn how to play poker.

I go full on LAG in these games and it leads to very high winrates. By this I mean that in a full ring game I am playing around 20% of my hands and in a 6max game closer to 30%. They want to fold preflop all day? Cool, I will steal their blinds all day. I open up from all positions. Yes, even from early position (EP) although I don't go too crazy. My play opens up the most from around the button.

I also 3bet far more. Close to 10% in either game. My 3betting is mostly on or around the button as well. As I always say with 3betting, pick easy targets! And there are plenty of them at NL5 and NL10. These are the guys who fold to 3bets 80%+. These are the guys who also fold to cbets at a similar high rate. They are fit or fold, weak players basically. Don't be afraid to fire another barrel on the turn or river as well if they start to get frisky with you and put on their sheriff's hat. The key is to keep the gas pedal to the floor against weak players like this. It's been said a million times but this game is not about the cards that you hold most of the time. It's about how you play against your opponents. It's really, really hard to make the nuts.

Other Options

There are many other ways to approach abusing the nit army as well though. For instance, many times it just makes no sense to 3bet them especially if they opened from EP. We know that their range is very tight so it is not very profitable to mess with them unless we have the nuts ourselves. Instead of just folding your suited connector on the button however try calling with it instead. Make sure that you are doing this in position (IP) and not with dominated hands such as broadways or even suited aces though. Now if we can hit something (especially two pair or better) that is obviously awesome. But that is just a bonus. Our intention in calling preflop was not to play fit or fold like them and only continue when we have a pair or better. That is losing poker. Our intention instead was to outplay them after the flop and win the pot with the worst hand a lot of the time. This is much easier to do IP.

So the nit is of course going to make his cbet like 80%+ of the time. Yawn. Check your HUD stats on him right away. How often is he barreling the turn? If it is 40% or less then just call the flop and bet the turn when he checks to you the majority of the time. Most nits will just give up here even with the middle part of their range which includes stuff as strong as small overpairs. Instant profit!

Or, we could take a different line on the flop. What is their fold to cbet raise %? If it is over 50% then it will obviously be profitable to just raise it up right now and take it down. This is just a straight numbers game that will earn profit for us in the long run. Lean on your HUD in the tighter games at NL5+. Once you know how to set it up properly and effectively use the stats it can allow you to find profitable spots like this so much more easily.

I have recently done a complete overhaul of my HUD with a thorough examination of the most important stats for success in 2013 microstakes cash games. I will be making it available as a free download for all of my blog readers in a future post.

That's it for now. Thanks for reading as always and all the best at the tables!

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

Crushing the Microstakes 2?

Posted by BlackRain79


Hey everyone, thought I would drop a line or two here about some new stuff happening on my website. First, I just want to formally announce that I am indeed writing a followup to Crushing the Microstakes. I said I would never write a book again but the response to that one has been so much more than I ever would have imagined. And of course one of the questions that I get asked on a regular basis is when are you going to write another book focusing on higher stakes.

Well I am writing it.

I have been technically working it for nearly 6 months now. This book is far different in scope and much more difficult to write though. I actually wrote CTM in about 2 months albeit I was working on it nearly every day for sometimes as much as 8-10 hours. This includes the editing time as well which I did all myself.

CTM is a book for beginners and people struggling at the lowest stakes though. While many strategies within it apply at all levels of the game it is most directly applicable to NL2, NL5, NL10 and the lowest limit live games. The games where the straight forward, unbalanced and highly exploitative style of play discussed in CTM still yields big winrates.

By NL25 things change quite a bit though. Fish are more scarce and the regs are much, much better than at the lower stakes. These are the first limits where you need to start figuring out how to balance your range, assess your opponent's on the fly, 4bet light, bluff raise, triple barrel, float effectively and so much more. There is simply so much more that goes into "crushing" these stakes that writing a book about it is a lot harder.

I am up for the challenge though and it does feel good to be writing again. My goal is to create the best book ever written on these stakes. It will be massive and comprehensive. I have no timetable for it's release but I am definitely hoping and expecting to make it available before the end of this year. My plan for the next month or two is just to work on it everyday. I will keep you all up to date.

For those curious, there is no title at this point. I prefer to figure that out after it is written anyways. It will very likely NOT be called Crushing the Microstakes 2 though. If anyone has any suggestions feel free to let me know in the comments!

And lastly, I have recently created a newsletter to accompany my blog. I plan to send out tips, info, articles and maybe some videos on a weekly basis on anything and everything micro stakes. I think this will help me stay connected with my regular readers and add a little bit more value that cannot be found on the blog. I will also be able to keep people updated on the progress of the book. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

That is all that I have for now.

Let me know in the comments what you want included in the book or in the newsletter!

EV In Life! What Every Non-Poker Player Should Know

Posted by vulcans

Humans are reactionary and emotional. We have a tendency to base our decision-making on recent events that affect us emotionally, rather than sticking to logic to form the best policies.The vast majority of us consistently take very minus EV lines in our everyday lives, and unfortunately, our political system is no different. Most people handle risk poorly because they do not understand EV. In my opinion, understanding EV is the most valuable lesson learned in poker that can be carried over in everyday life. Think about a couple of major events that occurred in the past 15 years and ask yourself two questions:

1) Did the risk of those disasters increase following the disaster/event?
2) Did our response change?

Almost universally the answer is that the EV did not change, but our responses did.

Major Event #1

Did the risk/EV of a nuclear catastrophe increase after Fukushima?

No, the EV of a major catastrophe remained the same both before and after. Risk factors take a long time to change. It is possible that the risk of a tsunami increased as a result of climate change and thereby increased the risk of a Fukushima like event. Those kinds of changes don’t happen overnight though. However, in one day Fukushima reshaped energy policies around the globe. Why? Because we allow ourselves to be dominated by fear rather than understanding the risk and dealing with it appropriately. Am I saying we should put up nuclear plants everywhere? Absolutely not! What I am saying is that the risks have not changed in any significant manner post Fukushima. If nuclear power (with all of its inherent risks) made sense before Fukushima then it still makes sense after! If nuclear power (with all of its inherent risks) didn’t make sense before Fukushima then it still doesn’t make sense after! What we should be doing is focusing our attention on making sure our risk models are giving us accurate statistics from which we can take educated risks.

Major Event #2

Did the EV of another 9/11 type terrorist event rise following Sept. 11th?

No, the EV of a major terrorist attack on US soil was likely similar both before and after Sept. 11th. However, after Sept. 11th, the United States made major policy changes such as invadind Afghanistan and Iraq (costing a tremendous amount of money and lives), and spending a tremendous amount of money creating the TSA. I am not going to pass judgement on whether or not these actions should have been taken, my point is that policy should be determined independent of a catastrophe occurring.

If we know there is a 5% chance annually of a terrorist attack that kills one thousand people, I think everyone would agree that is an unacceptably high risk. What if that chance was one in a trillion annually? Meaning that if you lived one million years, one million separate times, only one attack would happen. That would be a very successful terrorist prevention system, even though the risk would not be zero. So if a terrorist attack occurs tomorrow despite the chance of it being only one in a trillion, should policy be changed? No! In fact, by meddling with good policy based on results you increase the risk of creating bad policy. Frequently, the result of reactionary changes is inferior policy at a higher cost to society.

What about my personal life? How can a greater understanding of EV help me make better personal decisions?

Micro Event #1

Does the EV of you dying from cancer increase or decrease as a result of smoking two packs of cigarettes every day?

Yes, the EV of you dying from cancer increases! Having said that, you may never die from cancer, and may live to the ripe old age of 100. However, by choosing to smoke two packs of cigarettes per day, you have reduced your life EV, and the EV of you getting cancer has gone up.

Micro Event #2

o you drink and drive?

If you do, this negatively affects your life EV. Sadly, this also negatively affects the life EV of others around you. You may have a few pints and drive home safely without harming yourself or anyone else. However, your chances of getting into a major accident increase significantly, and therefore you are lowering your life EV.

There are plenty of other examples on local levels of mini-disasters that lead to poor policy. For example, if a pedestrian gets killed at a street that lacks a marked crosswalk, residents often petition and get a crosswalk installed. However, we shouldn’t be focusing on that one crosswalk, but instead trying to identify the highest risk crosswalks in the city and prioritizing those. By doing so, we ensure the greatest number of lives are saved and injuries reduced. By spending our tax dollars on a “low-risk” crosswalk due to a single tragic event, we forego the opportunity to fix another “higher-risk” crosswalk. Our reactionary approach is inappropriate and consistently costs society money and lives. As any poker players knows it is important not to base your behavior on short-term results, rather you should focus on long-term EV. The same holds true for life in general.

This post applies as much or more to non poker players than it does to poker players. So share this with your friends who may never have been exposed to the concept of EV. Also, share it on Twitter and Facebook or just send out a good old fashioned e-mail to your buddies. Hope you enjoyed the post!


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Dynamic Range Identification in Poker Part I

Posted by vulcans

Many poker players are obsessed with the idea of having an unexploitable range. The theory is sound, but it is difficult to apply and use to make money at online and live poker games. Ultimately, we want to exploit our opponents weaknesses and often that means potentially being exploitable ourselves. Sometimes it is better to focus more on what your opponents leaks are rather than being overly concerned if you have some small leak that 95% of poker players will not detect.

Ex. We 3bet a really high % of the time like 20% because our opponent folds 90% of hands to 3bets(See Fundamentals of 3betting . Doing so makes us exploitable, but also makes us a lot of money. It doesn’t matter if we are exploitable if our opponent is not exploiting you! Make sure you don't level yourself against this kind of opponent and think that maybe they are spazz 4betting against you.

How do we find and exploit a villains leak? In the scenario above it was very easy, but often that is not the case. In more complex cases we need a good grasp of what an unexploitable range looks like, and then if your opponent is deviating too far from that we know they have a leak.It is important to realize that some players may not have a significant leak until they begin to tilt. This is why game flow and psychology are so important. I think many players do not focus enough on game flow and psychology in determining their villains ranges. Poker players that understand game flow and psychology better tend to be the superior higher stakes players. Ultimately, to be successful at any level we should have a strong understanding of how to construct an unexploitable range(to combat/break even vrs highly skilled regs), and have a good strategy for exploiting the leaks of weaker opponents.

With time and experience we can become experts at anticipating how a poker player will react in a variety of different situations.

Example #1 A skilled opponent raises the button and you 3bet the SB and he then folds. Normally he folds to 3bets 66% of the time. The very next hand he raises the cut-off and you raise the button. How frequently do you expect him to fold to your 3bet?

A. In this kind of scenario most players will fold more often vrs your 3bet(something around 80% IMO). They are afraid of being seen as spazzing out and therefore they will be 4betting almost exclusively for value. At a 6max game I would expect something like AK+, JJ+ in this scenario

Example #2 A skilled villain raises the button 50% of the time to steal the blinds when he is first in the pot. The first time he raises the button you 3bet from the small blind and he folds. 20 hands later a similar scenario develops where he is first in on the button and raises. Again you 3bet from the SB. When he 4bets do you perceive his range as wider or tighter?

A. Generally, in this scenario I would expect him to 4bet wider. Most villains that open that wide off the button do not like to fold repeatedly vrs 4bets. Many of them may be very exploitable to a 5bet jam in this scenario because their 4bet is too wide, and they don’t have enough value hands in their range.

Against opponents that fold to a lot of 3bets we should be 3betting a ton. Against opponents that 4bet a ton of hands, and fold to 5bets we should be 5betting small pockets, KQs, AXs etc. Against opponents that 4bet a ton of hands, and don’t fold to 5bets we can weigh our 3bets heavily in the direction of value hands. What I am trying to illustrate in this blog is the importance of being versatile and adjusting in real time to our opponents. That is what will ultimately make you a big winner in poker.

One little trick to keep in mind is generally if you are significant off the 60-65% level for fold to 3bet, 4bet or 5bet you probably have a leak. Whether or not your opponents at the table recognize this is another question. If your opponents don’t have a good sample on you it could be difficult for them to detect. When studying focus your time on thinking about how game flow will affect your opponents ranges. I will post more on this topic another day! Check out my other blog posts at

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