This week my game has been a little off, and have felt like I've played very poor poker at time. I've been thinking about what I've been doing wrong, so I thought I would toss around some ideas, strategies and possible plays that i think my fix some holes in my and possibly others people's games. Feel free to add input:
Ha, if I'm not careful I might spend my whole day responding to this post; I tend to overwrite, so I'll try and answer each one quickly with little to no rambling. In preface, you must understand that each situation differs depending on your table dynamics. For the most part, you want to play the opposite of how the rest of the table is playing, regardless of what stage in the tournament you are at.
First Hour-Deep stack low blind pokerI struggle very much with this type of play, and have no idea how to play hands, good deepstack players, are you playing tight? Playing very loose, lots of hands? Limping? Raising? Calling raises with speculative hands, trying to win big pots early? I would love some input on this from like PMjackson, Lasombra, Hoosier, Zimmer anybody.
Deep stack poker plays a lot like a cash game...People have plenty of chips in comparison to the blinds, so you can mix it up a little bit more. I try to avoid hands that will lead to trouble, like AJ, AQ, KQ, KJ, AT etc early on, and would rather play hands like suited connectors (as well as one gap, and two gap), connectors, small to mid pp, suited aces, and the like. My goal with these hands is to try and see a flop cheaply, then capitalize on it if I flop something strong. At this stage in a tournament, your implied odds on hands like those I mentioned are great because you can often catch someone overplaying TPTK or an over pair. Another benefit of playing hands like this is that they are easily definable after the flop - either you are going to to play it, or it's an easy fold, which is not always the case with AQ/AJ etc.If I do play hands like AQ/AJ, I play them very passively/like a drawing hand.
First Hour- Fast rising blinds, low stack pokerThis is more suited to tournies on Stars where you start with 15o0 and the blinds increase relatively fast. How are you guys playing this first hour, calling raises with speculative hands? Limping? Raising a lot? Raising only with good position or good hands? Waiting for monsters? I have really been struggling with first hour play in tournaments regardless of stack size, so I could really use some help.
In the normal 1500 chip Stars tournaments I play a very TAG game, unless the table seems like a push over. With less chips at my disposal, I try and conserve them for when I need them and not waste them with speculative hands. Once I get a stack (if I do), I open up a bit more and take advantage of the fact that most people are short stacked. That being said, I tend to be more successful in deep stack formats. I tend to do quite well in rebuy tournaments (in fact my pokerdb stars are dominated by rebuys), the UB $100+ tournaments, and in a much smaller sample size, big buy in live events.
Button PlayA play I like to employ that i think is EXTREMELY effective a little later in MTT's is button bullying. Not the usual play that you are thinking of, but identifying the players who raise frequently, and love to steal blinds. If you can find a smart player, but one who likes to raise a lot preflop, you being on the button for his raises can chip up your stack steadily. Suppose you raise the cutoff with a wide range of hands trying to steal the blinds, what's the WORST possible scenario for you, a reraise or call from the button. So, if i see an aggressive player raising a lot from MP3, or the cutoff, I start to frustrate him by calling or reraising from the button. Calling is a lot tougher scenario, but if you believe he's gonna continuation bet the flop with anything, a raise or smooth call will win a nice little pot many times. If you call his flop bet, he's gonna shut down a majority of the time, and you can lead 2/3 to 3/4 pot and take it down very often. ABUSING LOOSE POSITION RAISERS WITH THE BUTTON CAN HELP YOU SLOWLY CHIP UP THROUGH THE TOURNEY. I know alot of you already knwo the importance of position, but this play is one I don't see often, and I know if i'm the loose cutoff raiser (I am) nothing frustrates me more than a guy who has position on me and won't stop tormenting me.
Re-stealing is a very effective tool in any good NL tournament player's bag of tricks. It's something you should do more of in deep stack tournaments then in tournaments where players have short stacks in comparison to the blinds however, because in those situations the original raiser is more likely to say f it and go all in with any sort of hand. Also, you need to have enough chips to absorb the times it doesn't work out.Something you might see me do in a MTT is limp from the button with a hand like a5 etc. I don't like raising from the button with hands that are marginal considering people's new found fondness of playing back at button raises, so I'll often limp. It allows me to get away from the hand cheaply if there is any significant action from either blind, it confuses the blinds because they _expect_ you to raise and figure you might have limped with a big hand, and since you will have position post flop you will often be able to take the pot down with a small bet when checked to (or even raise a bet and represent the big hand). Look at how Gavin Griffin's button limp in the WSOP PLHE event threw his opponent's for a complete loop.
Rebuy First Hour playSuccessful rebuy players, do you feel it's more profitable to play your regular game and hope to accumulate, or do you go all in a lot preflop and be a maniac? If not, are you calling raises with speculative or good hands and waiting to see a flop before you play all in pots? I would love input on this subject also.
Depending on the table, I will either play TAG or LAG. If Pharlap or someone similar is at my table and I know they will be pushing the action, I sit back and wait for a semi decent hand and come over the top of them. If the table is full of tight players, I'll play a lot more pots, hoping to liven things up a bit. Like I've said in other threads, there is nothing more damaging to your chances in a rebuy tournament then to be stuck at a table with no chips in play. It is a severe handicap post-break, and you should do everything in your power to avoid it. I'm not going to go into a full analysis of the benefits of playing a LAG/maniac type game in the first hour of these tournaments, but the benefits can be found in other threads/forums.Once I do get chips however, I will tighten up. My goal in the first hour is to give myself a deep enough stack to play optimally post-break. Once that is accomplished, I see no need to risk my stack without a premium hand/or situation. If you are up to 15k and a maniac like Pharlap is pushing with any two cards, why call off a good portion of your stack with a hand like AQ? Once I get chips in the rebuy period, I'm not going to risk them with ace high normally.
Short Stack PlayOnce again, this is a topic that has been discussed and written about before, but I thought it was important enough to reiterate. I sometimes get impatient and ignore my own advice, but patience is the only way to play a short stack. Patient aggression. Be the first one in the pot when you're going to push unless you have a monster. So many times players say well it's been raised to me, but I'm short and have a10, I can't get away. Yes, yes you can, wait until you are first in, and leave yourself the option of stealing hte blinds without being called.
Ya, patience is the key. I'm a huge proponent of first in vig. Don't fall in love with the first ace you see or the first paint; analyze the situation and make sure you are giving yourself the best chance to survive. Pushing into a raise and a call with AT without any fold equity is not the way to do that.If I am _extremely_ short stacked ( I mean 3 bb or below range) I will only play a premium hand and instead wait for the bb to hit me to commit my chips. With no fold equity, you are going to get called by hands that have you in bad shape normally if you push with a marginal hand, but if you wait until the BB you will often get people to come after you with lackluster hands. It's probably the only thing I have ever, and ever will, agree with Russ Boyd on.
These topics are all I can think of as of now, I would love to hear what you guys think about the ideas I brought up, or even advice for me in the areas where i feel i've been playing poorly lately. I think threads like this (if they can generate intelligent poker discussion) are what we need in this forum more, this can be productive and helpful, unlike the majority of threads in general.
Agreed, good thought provoking post. :-)Patrick