Saturday, June 5, 2010

Live Donkaments

As you know the WSOP is in full effect and I'm off to a rollicking start..0-5. Today was the 1knl and I promptly built up a starting stack of 3k to 13k playing small ball and w/o having to risk my entire stack at any point. Then a chain of beats and coolers struck.

I bluffed off 1500 w/ 5h5c on 9c7c2s6dKc where I thought the guy had a 9 or 7 only to find out he had I was half right and the bluff would've worked most times when a club rolls off river because he wasn't going to call if he didn't improve to 2pr+. Next co opens to 400, I rer on butt w/ red KK to 1050, he flats, flop AQJr, chk chk, turn 5, he bets 900, call, riv 4 bringing backdoor spades, he bets 3500, I fold. Next I opr min to 300 utg w AQo (I was thinking we were still playing 50-100 and threw 250 out there but had to complete to 300) and bb ships for 3k total, I call, he shows KQo and wins. Finally it goes utg (somewhat donkey) limps, lp limps, I complete w K7 in sb, bb chks, flop KT7r, I bet 400, fold, utg calls, fold, turn Q, I hate it but felt betting was best so I put out 1100, he shoves (he had a ton of chips), I gotta call 3500 or so..gross spot but whatever, his range is AJ, J9, sets, AK, AA, KQ, KJ, QT, K9s, and random drawing hands like 98s and call off and run into KQ. I was in a "wtf just happened!" mindset after I busted. Felt like I had played so well to chip up to 13k playing double the # of hands than anyone else at my table then run into that sequence. The only thing I think I could've done differently was to fold K7 at turn and save my last 3500 (blinds were 75-150) but whatever.

Anyway I wanna share a few tips on tournaments, esp. big field events (like the wsop or some online). Disclaimer..I'm not a well known tournament player but I think my tournament game is at an all time high for me (not necessarily based on recent WSOP results obviously), so take what I say fwiw.

I think for most, the best approach to the large field events like the 1k event today (which had about 4k entrants) is to take a Hellmuthian approach, esp. early on. Essentially just play small ball and accumulate chips by others' mistakes. Bluff very infrequently and just play best hand poker but make sure you value bet the best hand for all it's worth. Lots of players take the bet flop, chk turn (for pot control or for fear of getting chkr), bet riv line but most of the time they should be taking a bet, bet, evaluate riv and bet/chk based on whether your hand is best now and whether your bet has any value line.

Here are a couple of examples from my recent wsop.. hand 1.. utg opens to 600, sb calls, I call w QJo fr bb (somewhat loose), flop Qs9c8c, chked around, turn 2s, sb chks, I bet 900, utg calls, sb folds, riv 5c..before I tell you what I did, what would you do (esp/ w the 3rd club at riv)?

Here's my thought process...once he chks back flop, he prob. doesnt have a flush draw, doesnt have 2pr+, unlikely to have QJ beat although some would chk back KQ, AQ, KK, or AA on flop to see a safe turn card before putting any more chips in, and the turn 2 doesn't change anything so when he calls turn his hand is almost always QT, JJ, TT, A9, J9, and T9. The riv 5c is unlikely to change his hand for reasons mentioned so I valuebet 2k and he thinks for a bit and calls and mucks when I show. I hear a guy on my table say "QJ is good?" but he is just like most that think that my bet will never get called unless it's beat and that they would never bet 1pr at riv. when the flush card hits. In order to do well you need to see things clearly and sometimes that will go against the grain of how most people play.

Hand 2..I opr to 1k w J9s mp attacking a very tight str8 forward old guy's bb and he calls. Flop is JdTx3d, chk, I bet 1300, he calls, turn 6x, chk, I bet 2600, he tanks forever and calls, riv 2x, chk chk, he shows AK, I win a nice pot. Most would chk back turn for pot control and avoid getting raised but this is a great spot to keep betting vs a guy that will never make a semi bluff raise so if I get raised on turn it's an easy fold. Also w/ the flop being very drawy his range inc. so many drawing hands that you need to charge those hands and get value for yours. The riv is an easy chk back because he'll only call w/ better usually and fold everything else.

Now for betsizing, in nearly all instances its usually correct to just bet about half the pot..maybe a tad under or a tad over. If you watch the best players, that's how they betsize..always about half pot. Here's why...betting half will accomplish just about everything you want... let's say the pot is 1k and you bet 500 and your opponent calls...well if he calls he was calling a 400 bet and a 700 bet and if he folds he was folding to any size bet. Also chips won is less valuable than chips lost in a tournament (mostly because of the survival aspect of it). Now if you play a lot of hands like me you want to bet no more than half pot because a lot of times you won't have big hands and will have to fold to any resistance. Guys that pot or overshove usually are afraid of seeing a flop, or don't want their overprs cracked but it's hurting them more over the long run because they are theoretically losing value by getting folds from worse hands too often. Obv. you can adjust your betsizing on a myriad of factors inc. how wet/dry the board is, stack sizes, opponents, your image, but for the most part a half pot bet does the job.

**If you're not very good postflop it may be better to raise and bet bigger to take the skill element out of it vs more skilled players...also most skilled players like to play small pots, not large ones.

Finally I'm gonna talk about a strategic element that most good tournament players use, esp. the younger or online guys. In a live tournament you almost never see this play w/ most but again you'll see it from the best players. It's basically utilizing polarization. Polarization is basically hands that are nutted or air (nuts or nothing). Here's an example..

Avg player oprs mp, I have ATo lp and think calling is -ev here vs this opponent so my options are folding and 3betting, so I elect to 3bet (he opens to 800, I 3bet to 1950..notice I don't have to 3bet much because a 3bet looks strong no matter the betsizing). If he 4bets it's an easy fold for me (if stax are deep maybe a 5bet shove can be better but that's pretty rare). 3betting in live tournaments gets so much 10x more so than online cash games. Most of the time he will fold, and sometimes he will call and since most flops miss his hand, you can win it w/ a cbet most of the time. I would classify ATo as air here because it is not a good hand to call a raise w/ in a tournament so I'm basically polarizing my 3bet range. Other hands to polarize w/ are any Ax offsuit up to ATo, K9s, 65s (if you'd rather fold than call then rer could be even better), 98o, etc. That's why when you see a good young player show up w/ 65o or trash in a 3bet pot, you know why. Now the opposite end of the spectrum is 3betting w/ AK, QQ+ but everyone knows about that. Most of the time you don't want to 3bet w hands like JTs, AJs, 22-66 because you have to fold when 4bet and you're giving up too much value in not seeing a flop whereas folding 98o to a 4bet is no big deal.

This is one of the ways the good players chip up..they find spots to polarize their range and pick up chips. Also an added benefit to this is that your 3betting range looks wide and when you do 3bet w/ a premium hand like KK or AA you're more likely to get action. Again there are variables to opponents, your image, and very importantly stack sizes. Eg, mp opens to 3bb (w/ 20 bbs left), you have 98o and 3bet to 8bb, now he have to call for 12bbs more so it was better to fold in the 1st place. It's best done when stack sizes call for it..usually 30bbs+ effective. Also you prob. want to be able to play postflop adequately in case you do end up getting called.

Also in the later stages of a big field tournament, the bad players will be usually weeded out and busted so you'll prob. have to mix up your game some and bluff more frequently than the early stages. Also there will be times you'll take a bet/chk/bet line esp. later on because generally there will be better players that are capable of chkr as a bluff. You have to be aware that your hand becomes face up when you do take a bet/chk/bet line though. A lot of times you'll have 20bbs or less and you'll just need to know what hands/spots to shove w/ basically.

Side note... it was 107 degrees'ing hot!


  1. you need to update more often!

  2. Haha...I was updating every other day after playing an event to start this month but have taken the last few days off from the WSOP so nothing really interesting to talk about..pokerwise event is Saturday. I'll do a write up soon about my exploits w/ some online guys I've met that may or may not be interesting (sorry no strippers involved).