The Poker Lab Rat

July 16, 2010

Part II: How Mike Caro Got Eliminated From The World Series Of Poker

Mike Caro professional poker playerTournament complaint three.

Rebuy tournaments. I don’t like that whole concept. I won’t revisit the reasons today, but it comes down to the inequality of opportunity between those who can afford to rebuy and those who can’t. Furthermore, those – like myself – who are interested primarily in winning the first-place trophy will usually rebuy or add-on, given the opportunity, even when the decision is not merited in terms of profit.
I believe that in a tournament, anything you do correctly to increase your chances of winning first place should not be punished. But that’s not the case with poker tournaments today. The ones that work, in my mind, are winner-take-all in which the table champion gets immediate compensation and advances to the next winner-take-all table. Don’t get me wrong. As I’ve said before, I have nothing against “rebuy events,” just don’t call them “tournaments.”

Having now sounded my tournament dissent, I’ll tell you that this year I entered the main event at Binion’s World Series of Poker for the first time. Before this year I was content to say that, although I’d never won the event, I’d never lost it, either. Now I can’t say that anymore.

The hand.

Those of you who follow this column and take an interest in the Internet know that I frequently recommend the discussion group rec.gambling.poker. You’ll need a newsreader to access it. Anyway, in May, I left a message about how I got eliminated from the tournament. I’d like to share it with you now. Then, next column, I provide some of the responses and my subsequent comments. Here it is (although it has been edited slightly to conform to my follow-up post revising the seating positions)…
Subject: How Mike Caro got eliminated — an interesting hand From: (Mike Caro) Date: 1998/05/12 Newsgroup: rec.gambling.poker

How would y’all have played this hand? I got eliminated with it, and possibly should have played it differently. Here’s the situation…

We are three hours into the final $10,000 buy-in event at the World Series of Poker. I’m at table two, which is outside the main room in the satellite area. My table consists of no players that I am very familiar with, but five of my eight opponents have talked about my books and introduced themselves. Surrealistically, there are two separate discussions about my philosophy of tells while the action is going on — neither of which I participate in. Everyone is friendly. Opponents all seem experienced and capable, but no super stars that I can spot. All male. Action is marginally loose compared to what I expected in this main event at the early stages (I’ve never entered before).

After about three hours, I’ve built to $13,500 in chips. I have Ad-Qd Two seats to the right of the button (dealer position), nine handed. Blinds are $50 and $100. Everyone passes to the player on my right (6th position). He makes a routine attack raise of $300 ($400 total). He has far fewer chips than I do, probably about $7,000. Here’s my first decision.

I can pass, call, raise marginally, or raise big. You could make an argument for any of those four tactics, since nobody behind me has more chips than I do, although the button has almost as many.

I call. Button also calls. Time for the flop.

It’s Kd-Kc-6d giving me an ace-high flush draw with my Ad-Qd. Sixth seat bets $1,400. I debate. A good argument can be made for throwing the hand away here. Actually, I would if the off card were a nine or higher, because this would greatly increase the chances of a full house. Pot is now $4,100 and it costs me $1,400 to call. In a ring game, I would occasionally raise here (not usually, though) — perhaps $3,000 or $4,000 more.

Again, there are valid arguments for passing, calling, and raising. I decide to call, but I think I would have folded a good percent of the time in similar situations. Button also calls.

Turn card is 7d. I make my flush. Check to me. There is danger here, but I need to weigh the chances of an opponent holding K-K, 6-6, K-6, or K-7 (not likely to be 7-7) to beat me against the chances of an opponent holding K-anything else — or even, less likely, two diamonds or another pair to lose to me. If I bet big, K-J, K-10, K-9 or K-smaller (except K-7 or K-6) may fold. If those hands call, I’m not as happy (because of the tournament danger), but I have the best of it.

There are valid arguments for checking along, making a small bet, or making a large bet. I move all-in.

Player on the button calls instantly with 6-6 (a full house), leaving me with only $300 in chips that last another 10 minutes.

I thought that since this was a hand with so many options, it would be fitting for r.g.p discussion. Of course, some readers will look at it and conclude that it is obvious that the hand should be played a particular way. But I don’t think so. Let me know what you think.

Build your poker bankroll at DoylesRoom.com pokerStraight Flushes, Mike Caro

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April 8, 2010

Mike Caro on Successful Poker Tournament Strategy

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 5:02 am

Mike Caro poker tipsWhom to attack in tournaments…

The most common types of poker tournaments are the “proportional payoff” variety. That’s where, as players are eliminated, tables are consolidated until the survivors meet at a final table and first place wins all the chips. But first place doesn’t get to keep all the money, so there’s — in effect — a penalty for winning. This means survival is worth more than using many sophisticated tactics that would earn extra profit in non-tournament games. So, you should avoid high-risk, seemingly profitable finesses and play more conservatively in order to survive and win more of the prize pool. Fine.

But, correct strategy for these tournaments also requires that you attack mostly players with fewer chips than you have. This provides two advantages:

(1) You can’t be eliminated by those players, so you’ll survive even if you lose the pot;
(2) If you win the pot, you’ll eliminate the short-stacked opponent and automatically move up in the money.
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March 27, 2010

Poker: Cashout Tournament Strategies

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 6:10 pm

New at FullTilt PokerNew Cashout Tournaments provide players the option to leave the online poker tournament at any time before the final table and get the cash value of what their stack is worth. With the options of cashing out part of your chip stack or your entire stack and exiting a tournament, we players are presented with a whole new variety of options to consider.

In Cashout Tournaments, half of the buy-in goes into the Cashout prize pool, and the other half into the tournament prize pool. The ability to cash out in 10% increments of the starting stack (for example, if you start with 3,000 chips, you can cash out as little as 300 chips and keep cashing out in increments of 300) can drastically alter the way you approach these tournaments. With most pros, the goal in a tournament is first place. Cashing in a tournament or lowering variance is not a major concern the vast majority of the time. If that’s your only goal, removing chips from your stack is not going to be an option you employ very often. For most players, however, while first place is certainly always going to be the number one goal, there are other factors involved.

Often times, the best opportunity to cash out is going to be early in the tournament. You can get back some of the money you put up in the buy-in and navigate a slightly shorter stack while the blinds are still small and chip away to get back to where you started and beyond. The real key to knowing when to implement the Cashout option is how much the money means to you. There’s certainly a real advantage in a poker tournament when you triple up very early and have that bigger stack, but for a lot of players, securing that automatic Freeroll in a tournament is going to be even more advantageous (remember that with the 3,000 chip starting stack, should you increase your stack to 9,000, each 300 chips will allow you to cash out for 10% of what you put into the Cashout pool – 6,000 chips will get your full buy-in back and still leave you with a starting stack!). The ability to give peace of mind, guaranteeing that you can’t lose any money in the tournament, might allow you to play a stronger game as you go on.

The Cashout Tournaments also provide a few other opportunities poker players have never seen before. There isn’t a player out there who hasn’t been playing their tournament and just had something “come up” or something they absolutely had to do. Maybe you were already on a time crunch with just a few free hours to spare and were looking to play a little poker. I would advise any player in this position to join a Cashout Tournament rather than risk running out of time in another MTT. The full Cashout option allows you to play and still get money out of the work you did, even if you can’t complete the whole thing!

My strategy going into Cashout Tournaments would be to cash out little by little. I might take a little off the top here and there, while trying to retain a relatively decent stack. I always like to have the biggest stack at the table so I can get maximum value out of my hands, but in the cases where I have quite a bit more chips than anyone else, getting a little bit of money for my chips becomes quite appealing. Later on in the tournament, I would consider cashing out a little bit here and there, while still trying to keep my stack above 15 big blinds, and preferably above 20 big blinds. Maintaining this stack size makes sure that I’m not so short that my hand is forced while still having enough chips to re-raise all-in and have enough chips that someone can fold.

The full Cashout option is one I would reserve for mostly emergencies and other such events that come up unexpectedly. Tournament life is such a valuable thing that I would never give up my last chip in a Cashout Tournament unless I had to leave, but cashing down to a shorter stack and trying to double up can be highly effective and fun as well. Many people like to start with short stacks in cash games and take away a lot of the decision work. Cashing out to 10 big blinds or less and beginning to play shove or fold poker is something many people hate, but many others love.

One final tip to keep in mind is that you will also have the ability to practice valuable tournament skills by utilizing the Cashout option. If you need more experience playing a shorter stack effectively, you can cash out a portion of your stack. This allows you to make additional money without having to actually dump off chips, and you can work on improving that portion of your poker game, as well.

ABOUT ERIC:

Nicknamed “EFro”, Eric Froehlich has won two WSOP bracelets and more than $1.3 in Career Tournament Earnings. A native of New Jersey, Eric is an accomplished “Magic: the Gathering” card game player.

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April 25, 2009

Professional Poker Tip: Adjusting strategy mid-hand

Filed under: Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 5:08 am

Professional Poker player John Storakers

Most of the time when you’re engaged in a poker hand, you’ll be thinking about what decisions you will make before you have to make them. For example, if you call a raise with K-Q, you’ll think to yourself: Okay, if I hit top pair, I’m going to play this hand. If I have a gut-shot and two over-cards, I’m going to play this hand. If I have an open-ender and two over-cards, I’m going to play this hand. Otherwise, I’m going to let it go.

However, there will often be times when something happens that causes you to change your strategy mid-hand. Maybe your opponent makes a weak bet that gives you information worth using to your advantage. Or maybe he makes a bet on the river that looks like a value bet and convinces you to fold a hand you were planning on calling with.

It’s always good to enter a hand with a plan, but it’s essential that you be willing to deviate from the plan if the situation calls for it. Every hand requires that you react to your cards and the cards on the board, but it’s equally important that you factor in your opponent and his tendencies.

Here’s a hand that I played recently at the 2009 EPT German Open in Dortmund, where I went on to finish in fourth place. It was late in Day Two, I had been fairly short-stacked for a while and occasionally shoving with decent hands, but I hadn’t yet made a serious bluff in the tournament. We were eight-handed, the player in second position made a very small raise to 8,500 with blinds at 2,000/4,000 and a 500-chip ante, and it folded around to me in the small blind with pocket fives. I had about 70,000 in chips, and all I knew for sure was that I wasn’t going to fold a pocket pair in this situation.

I decided to call rather than raise, knowing the big blind would certainly be priced in to call as well, and he did. The flop came A-8-3. I was obviously looking to flop a set, or maybe something like 2-3-4 or 3-4-6, and this flop was not at all good for my hand, so I checked. The big blind also checked. And the initial raiser made what looked to me like a very weak bet, 12,000 into a 29,500 pot.

I was quite sure from the bet that he didn’t have an Ace, and probably he didn’t have a pair of any kind. It seemed to me that he had a hand like K-J, something in that range. So when he bet 12,000, I considered all of the factors – my read on him, my tight image, and my stack size. I decided to raise 21,000 more, representing that I had perhaps a weak Ace and had committed myself to the pot (even though, in reality, I wasn’t committed and would be willing to fold to a re-raise, leaving myself with about 30,000 in chips).

The big blind folded, and after thinking for a long time, the initial raiser folded also. He simply had to give me credit for a real hand that I wasn’t going to lay down to a re-raise.

This was a situation where I didn’t really intend to commit many chips if I didn’t hit a favorable flop, but I adjusted my decision making based on my opponent’s post-flop action, believing the stage had been set for me to make a move. Always be willing to adjust your plan, and every once in a while you’ll find yourself winning chips that otherwise would have been pushed toward someone else.

ABOUT JOHAN STORAKERS: Swedish player Johan Storakers is based in Stockholm and has won more than $2.4 Million in career tournament earnings…

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February 8, 2009

Mistakes to Avoid in Tournament Poker

Mistakes to avoid in tournament pokerHere’s the latest item from the team at … bet365 poker it’s aimed at rookie poker players.

Playing in your first couple of poker tournaments can be an intimidating experience. Many new players get wrapped up in the action and make basic mistakes that they should never make. We all have to start somewhere and learn the game along the way, but here’s a list of basic mistakes that no one should be making at the tables . . .

Playing too many hands is the most common of rookie mistakes. Novice players don’t understand that rag hands have a lower winning percentage than premium ones. They’ll play anything hoping to hit two pair or trips. This mistake just bleeds their chip stack quickly until they get knocked out of the tournament. They need to learn some starting hand strategy and tighten up their game.

Pricing in their opponents is the most common mistake a rookie will make when they have the lead in a hand. Instead of knowing to bet their hand for value, rookie players often bet too small of an amount when they’re leading early on. Doing this allows their opponents to call the bet with drawing hands because the pot odds are low enough to justify the call. If enough players are still in the hand, the rookie player’s lead will often get out-drawn and they’ll lose the hand.

Chasing a straight with the sucker end is another situation where rookies get into big trouble. If a board is 6-J-10 and they hold 9-8, even if the queen comes on a later street they could still be way behind. It’s a good move to only call bets if you do hit the queen, and not to raise in that situation. A big bet from an opponent will usually tell them that someone has the bigger straight. This can also apply to a small flush when the hand has some other callers in it.

Going all-in pre-flop is another mistake that rookies often make. This move is dangerous at the best of times, even with pocket aces. Most times the rookie will not get any action on their hand, and if they do it’s from a big hand. The only time you’ll want to go all-in pre-flop is if a short-stack player has tried to force the action. Then you can go all-in to isolate them from other callers with your dominant hand.

Bluffing too often is a common rookie mistake for the aggressive type of rookie. These players use the all-in bet as a way to steal pots, but this play will eventually backfire on them and cost them a big amount of chips in a hand they shouldn’t even have even been in. They should limit their bluffs so they can be hidden, and it looks like they have the goods every time they have to show their cards at showdown.

Getting emotional is another one you’ll see. Novice players don’t understand that poker has a lot of losing for every player, and they give up, or tilt out, when things go wrong for a while. They will give up after a bad beat, and essentially throw away their final chips because they figure they can’t come back. They let frustration take over and dump chips for no reason – other than they’re not strong-minded enough to accept that they can’t win them all.

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January 8, 2009

Pro Poker Tips: Rebuy Tournaments

Filed under: Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 11:26 pm

Going into any rebuy tournament, you should know before the first cards are dealt how much money you’re willing to invest. Whether you’re playing with a single bullet (not planning to rebuy at all), enough money to rebuy 50 times, or somewhere in between, you should have a number in your mind. You need to know from the start how many risks you can afford to take, and play accordingly.

Michael Gracz plays poker online at FullTiltPoker.com

For me personally, I don’t believe in playing with a single bullet or with unlimited ammo. If you’re only planning on making one buy-in, then why not play a regular No-Limit Hold ’em tournament? Playing a rebuy tournament with only one bullet, you have no safety net and you’re giving the other players a significant edge over you because they’re able to exploit your reluctance to gamble.

If you’re pushing your stack in over and over, looking to accumulate chips and willing to go broke repeatedly, there’s a certain amount of upside to that, but I don’t believe it’s the best expected value play. Yes, that maniacal approach can sometimes get you into the post-rebuy period with a large chip stack, which of course provides an edge for the rest of the tournament. The problem is that if you’ve spent something like $25,000 in a $1,000 buy-in tournament, you have to finish that much higher in the money to come out ahead. A lot of times when you’re rebuying that many times, just making the money doesn’t cover how much you’ve invested into the tournament.

My personal rule of thumb is that I like to be willing to invest in the tournament in accordance to the payout amounts. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m investing significantly more money than the lowest money place pays. So in a $1,000 rebuy tournament, I’m willing to put about $8,000 into it. Some days, it’s just not your day, the cards aren’t falling your way and you have to leave and come back and play another day. It’s foolish to sit there and keep putting your stack in the middle when you have no edge and often times you’re up against a better hand.

When you’re playing this middle-of-the-road strategy, it’s important to identify the maniacal players from the outset because they’re going to be very dangerous, but they’re also going to provide you with your best opportunities to chip up. These players are actually the prime reason to play in a rebuy tournament, because you can feast on them. They’re going to open with all types of hands from all different positions, so you can call with marginal hands in position such as 10-9 suited, 8-7 suited, 3-4 suited, even one-gappers such as 6-8 suited. I also want to put a lot of pressure on this type of player before the flop if I have a big hand like Aces, Kings, or Queens, simply because this is the type of player who’s really willing to gamble and might just go ahead and ship the rest of his stack in right there.

In the last 10 to 15 minutes of the rebuy period, if you’ve been able to acquire a stack, this is a critical time in the tournament to play smart. If the hyper-aggressive players don’t have a lot of chips, they’re going to be pushing it all in almost every hand to give themselves a shot at a big stack heading into the post-rebuy period. If you have an edge in a given hand against these guys, use it, but you don’t want to gamble too much. Remember that you’ve acquired a stack now and it’s your goal to maintain that stack in and after the rebuy period.

a5_wPolish-born, Gracz has one WPT Championship, one WSOP bracelet and was named CardPlayer’s 2005 “Breakthrough Player of the Year”

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December 24, 2008

Tips from Poker Professionals: Turbo MTTs

Filed under: Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 2:14 am

Popular poker author Michael Craid plays online at FullTiltPoker.comWhen playing a turbo Multi-Table Tournament online, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is overcompensating for the fact that it’s a turbo by playing too fast and loose during the first several rounds. Because the levels are shorter and the starting stacks smaller, you’ll see players rushing to get all their chips into the pot with a hand like A-9 or pocket 5s. Since these tournaments actually play like normal tournaments during the first few levels, it’s important to remain patient and wait for big hands.

In the first 15 or 20 minutes of a turbo tournament you should play the same way you would in the first hour or hour and a half of a regular tournament. You should be looking to play quality hands aggressively from late position, but if you meet any resistance you need to pull back. At this point in the tournament it’s not worth losing all your chips with A-J offsuit or pocket 5s if an opponent comes over the top of your raise.

There’s also very little point in trying to steal the blinds in the early stages because they’re so small relative to the size of the starting chip stacks. Stealing the blinds becomes much more important in the later rounds after the antes have kicked in. The other argument against trying to steal the blinds early on is that you’re more likely than usual to get called because players tend to play faster in turbos. The big blind will be looking for a reason to call your raise from late position, and he might even make a move, pushing all in with a marginal hand. As a result, trying to steal the blinds becomes much less profitable than usual.

What you should be looking for in the early stages are opportunities to play small hands that could become big hands. When you’re in good position, you should be looking to see as many flops as possible with small pocket pairs and suited connectors because these are the types of hands that can win big pots. If I have a hand like pocket 6s, I’ll rarely fold to a raise before the flop because I know that one time in eight I’ll catch a 6 on the flop and double up off a player who can’t let go of his big pair.

If you do choose to call a raise before the flop with a small pocket pair, it’s important that you make sure your opponent has a large enough chip stack to justify the eight-to-one odds of you hitting a set. Ideally, you should be looking to make this call against a player who has at least twenty times the size of the preflop raise. If your opponent only has five times the size of the raise in his chip stack, you can’t win enough to make the call mathematically correct.

Another important difference between turbo and regular tournaments is that in a regular tournament I’ll be a little more aggressive in the early stages, trying to project a certain image. I’ll often raise with hands like J-9 suited or Q-8 suited in late position, but that tactic doesn’t work as well in turbo tournaments. In turbos I’ll often pass up opportunities to make an opening raise with these sorts of hands because I don’t want to put myself in the difficult position of having to play a big pot with such a weak hand.

Let your opponents be the ones to overplay their weak hands early on because they almost certainly will. They’ll raise or call raises before the flop with hands like pocket fours, and even if the flop comes Q-J-7 they’ll keep on pushing. Such players also tend to overplay strong hands like A-K. After raising before the flop with that hand, many players will refuse to let it go after getting check-raised on a flop like J-7-4. Even though they’re obviously behind, they’ll call a big bet, hoping to catch an Ace or King on the turn.

Some players will even push all their chips into the middle in this situation. All they have are two overcards, but I guess they figure that after raising before the flop and betting on the flop they’ve already invested a healthy chunk of their chip stack and they might as well go all the way with the hand. They’re impatient because of the nature of turbo tournaments − starting with smaller chip stacks and playing quicker levels − but this is obviously a huge mistake.

The most important thing to remember in the early stages of an online turbo tournament is stay patient and wait for big hands. Too many players overcompensate for the fact that it’s a turbo and make foolish moves that cost them half their stacks. Don’t be one of those players.

Michael Craig is a popular US-based poker writer/journo.

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December 5, 2008

Pro Tips: Playing Aggressive Tournament Poker

Professional Poker tips and adviceUnless you’ve had your head in the sand for decades you know that most poker pros and poker commentators have been preaching the value of aggressive tournament play for a long time now.

With so many outstanding online poker tournaments happening online right now, we thought we’d take a look at some of the tournament poker advice that’s been offered by one of the top poker pros – Gus Hansen. Hansen is a highly aggressive player and a prime example of how to succeed by putting the pressure on when playing tournament poker.

Hansen has been categorized by some as a loose player. It’s a term that borders on insulting in that it implies a certain recklessness. But the proof is in the pudding, and Hansen’s pudding is his place in the World Poker Tour Hall of Fame, his four WPT titles and a first place finish at the 2007 Aussie Millions Main Event. He currently has total tournament winnings exceeding $7,200,000 – that’s a lot of pudding.

Hansen’s success as a tournament player is in direct contrast to hits he has taken in cash games. Despite his big tournament winnings he has struggled with money problems in the past partly because he has taken huge hits while playing in The Big Game that’s normally held in “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio. Hansen has admitted to losing a approximately a million dollars at couple of the games. Perhaps this is a good indicator of how an aggressive player might be best suited to tournament poker.

The success of the aggressive tournament player stems from the need to collect every last chip in the tournament and let’s face it, even if you make the final table, your chances are severely reduced if you’re the short stack. And it’s easy to think in terms of just trying to make it to the money but it’s more important to keep in mind what the payout structure is.

A good example can be seen in the WSOP Circuit Tournament at Caesars Palace last year. Chad Brown and Cory Carroll both made the final table; Brown as the short stack with $136K in chips and Carroll as chip leader with $713K. Not too surprisingly Brown went out first and Carroll won the whole thing using his chip lead to make plays that would be impossible if he were short stacked. Everyone knows the importance of getting a big chipstack but this should help illustrate how important it is in tournament play. Brown ended up walking away with $32,592 in cash. Not bad, but just eight spots ahead of him, Carroll made over half a million dollars. In other words Brown would have to finish ninth in the exact same tournament another 15.5 times in order to earn what Carroll did in one. That’s the value of a big chipstack and that’s why so many pros endorse a more aggressive tournament style.

It’s something to keep in mind the next time you get to the bubble and everyone at your table starts playing tighter than a tourniquet. It is probably worth the risk to get in there and steal some blinds. However, you’ll always want to keep in mind what the payout structure of your tournament is and gauge your aggression accordingly.

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November 7, 2008

The Benefits of an Aggressive Image

Filed under: Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments,pro tips,WSOP — Mike @ 12:05 am

Scott Montgomery - WSOP November Nine

One of the most important aspects of poker is establishing an individual image and using it to your advantage. By playing an extremely aggressive game, you’re likely to get paid off when you make a big hand because your opponents assume you have nothing; by consistently playing tight, you’ll get away with bluffs because they assume you’re strong. Either approach is fine, but it’s tremendously important to be aware of your table image so you can profit by playing against it.

Most of the time, players fall between these two extremes and that’s not a formula for success. One of the keys to succeeding in poker is consistently playing a different game than everyone else at the table. Developing a unique style and then varying your game allows you take advantage of opponents who don’t adjust their game.

Personally, I feel the style that works best is all-out aggression. One important reason for this is that it gives me a shot at becoming the chip leader and running away with the tournament. On the other hand, it can also lead to busting out early. For me, this is a risk worth taking; in the long run, I’m more interested in finishing tournaments in 1st place once in a while than just making the money most of the time.

Keep in mind that this type of aggression isn’t just a matter of bluffing to steal pots; my ultimate goal is to get paid off when I have a big hand. By getting involved in a lot of pots with mediocre hands while still keeping my stack close to even, I put myself in a position to profit from opponents who are convinced that I’m completely loose and taking shots with any two cards. I don’t have to be successful every time I bluff, just enough to stay alive and reinforce that wild image so that when I catch that hand, I’ll be sure to win a big pot.

Here’s a perfect illustration from Day Seven of the World Series of Poker Main Event – the day that determined who would reach the final table. I came into the day with about 4.5 million in chips, which was a little below the average. I knew that to make it to the final table and have a real shot at taking it down, I’d need about 15 million in chips. I had no intention of sneaking in short-stacked, so I knew I’d have to triple up over the course of the day.

I stayed pretty even throughout the whole day, except for two massive pots that were directly related. The first pot came early in the day, when I tried to bluff a player off a pot on the flop with nothing but Ace-high. I made this all-in move because I thought I could get the guy to fold. He ended up calling with top pair, but I spiked the Ace on the river to double up through him. I certainly got lucky there, but one other very important thing came out of it: I made the table aware that I wasn’t afraid to make a move for most or all of my stack.

Later in the day I was involved in a hand where I had the nuts – there were four spades on the board and I had the Ace of spades. My opponent had a smaller flush – with the nine of spades, I believe – but my image was so crazy that he called because he put me on another bluff. The earlier hand, when I pushed with the Ace-high, had to have been in the back of his mind. Poker players always want to call. They think: what hands can I possibly beat? This is magnified when you’re at a TV table, because no one wants to be that guy who laid down a good hand and lost a huge pot to a stone-cold bluff, especially when the whole nation is watching. Because of my loose image, I ended up winning an 18 million chip pot.

In a sense, it isn’t easy to play poker this aggressively. You have to be equipped to handle the emotional swings; you have to understand, deep down, that sometimes you’re going to lose huge pots – maybe even your whole stack – on a bluff. When it happens, you can’t collapse. You have to walk into the next tournament willing to make that same play again, because most of the time it will work. You can never be afraid at the table or preoccupied with the past. To play this aggressively, you have to believe that it’s the right way. If you can manage this, you’re going to be successful in the long run.

tickyWith $1.3 Million in Career Tournament Winnings including 4 WSOP Cash Finishes to date Scott Montgomery plays online at BetOnline and Bookmaker Poker. Join him at a table some day soon!

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October 21, 2008

Why Play Sit and Go Poker?

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments — Mike @ 9:18 pm

Sit and Go poker tournaments are a fun and exciting way to get your poker fix in a hurry. Since you don’t usually have to pre-apply or find an open date to play, the Sit and Go (“SNG”) is a favorite amongst poker enthusiasts who want to play cards in their spare time.

Say you get home from work at 5:30 PM (I wish!) and, amazingly, have a night with nothing on the horizon. With the SNG, you can find a table with an open spot, wait for the pre-selected amounts to be filled and try to win yourself a nice dinner for tomorrow. Imagine covering the cost of that Porterhouse steak before eating it!

These SNG online poker tournaments are fast-paced, usually consisting of 10 players, and they’re the best way to build a bankroll with a minimal deposit. It’s important to note that they normally pay the top three finishers out of 10 players and are the only tournaments where you will find 30 percent of the field getting paid (in multi-table tournaments, generally only about 10 percent of the field is paid). SNGs definitely are the best “risk/reward” ratio in online poker.

A good way to play in these SNGs is to employ a “tight aggressive” mentality. While you do face the possibility of seeing some bad beats doing so, those losses can be mitigated if you stay the course. The blinds usually start quite low, so the conservative player will be rewarded down the road. Generally speaking, you can start out tight and then slowly become aggressive with premium hands. Chances are you’re sitting at a table with some causal players who want to make big splashes as well, so bide your time and wrangle them in. One of the staples of a SNG is that people will often pay any price to see a flop, regardless of what cards they’re holding.

Table position will play a big role in how you pull off this strategy, however. In early position, you should only play these strong hands. Later on, however, is your chance to occasionally loosen the reins. Middle-to-late positions are great because you can see what others players might be doing – maybe take a flyer on that low pocket pair or those suited connectors. Really, the middle-to-late positions are great for one thing: getting to see the action. You will get to see what kind of action your opponents take before you have to make a decision, and more importantly, what kind of pot odds you’ll be getting to see a flop.

All strategy aside, though, the real fun of a SNG is the spontaneity. If you’re into tournament-style poker but can’t handle a fixed schedule of events, the SNG is definitely the way to go. Blind structures encourage casual players and novices to get their feet wet in the world of online poker, which means anybody and everybody is truly welcome.

a5_wLooking for online poker tournaments? Check out bet365 Poker – Having played at bet365 Poker for years, we really enjoy and recommend them highly. bet365 is the lead member of the Playtech iPoker Network. Sorry, no US-based players can be members.

2h_wAmerican poker players should visit BetOnline Poker (Chico Poker Network – Boutique-style poker – very stylish with some great play features. Players from around the world including most USA residents welcome)

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