by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
How we approach tournaments will have an affect on the way we play. We’re aware going in that there will be ups and downs - that we’ll need to make many correct decisions if we want to have a chance at getting to the final table. When bad things happen while we’re playing, we need to be able to hit the proverbial reset button. Tournaments are long poker marathons where it is necessary to make many correct decisions, and it only takes one mistake to knock you out.
There are many things that set off poker players and make them lose their mind. When a player loses a big hand, they’re all of a sudden more likely to play in a polarized fashion: go into a shell and play extremely tight, or go on tilt and spew their chips off. Recognizing this, we must be very precise with how we play after we (or our opponent) lose a big hand. These are the times at the table where there is a strong connection between the last hand and the present hand.
by Tom McEvoy
My friend Paul Zibits was playing a tournament at the Commerce Casino in Las Angeles when the following hand came up. This hand was haunting him and he did not know if he made the right play or not so he asked me for my opinion. Here is the situation: We are now one table from the money and Paul has an average stack and is in the big blind. One player goes all-in and Paul has him covered. Now the biggest stack at the table (a good young tournament player) flat calls. Since he is the chip leader he could have a wider range of hands to call the first player’s all- in move. Paul looks down and has pocket Jacks and the action is now on him since all the other players have folded. He knows he has no fold equity since he would not have enough chips left to push the other player off his hand. His thinking was that he probably had a coin flip against one or both of these guys and the 2nd player could have flat called with a bigger pair to trap in this spot which is not uncommon. In the end he folded. If he was up against just the original all-in player, he would have called for sure. If he made the call and lost he would be very short-stacked even if he put no more chips in the pot. This hand has been haunting him ever since and he wanted to know what I would have done in this situation. This was a big tournament at the L.A. Poker Classic so there was a lot at stake.
by George “The Engineer” Epstein
Here’s an interesting query I received from reader Jack Durr who picks up his copy of PPN at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY where he enjoys playing 1-2 NLHE $50Min-$200Max:
“Could you tell me how many players would have to limp in before the blinds for it to be a +EV to complete the small blind with any two cards?
The game is small stakes – $200 max NLHE; lots of limping preflop.” It’s an intriguing question—one I have never seen/heard addressed. Basically, the question deals with starting-hand selection. With Jack’s permission, here’s my answer:
by Shari Geller
How many times have you known the right thing to do at the table, yet you stubbornly did the opposite. You see this on TV all the time. The player who tells their opponent, “I know you have me beat” just before tossing in their chips. Some literally kiss their chips goodbye as they make what they know to be a bad call (I’m looking at you, Daniel Negreanu). Why do they do that, and how can you avoid making that same mistake? Often what is going on is a player is letting their ego get in the way of making the right decision. By announcing that you know you’re beat, and still committing chips to the pot, you are effectively trying to have it both ways. If you lose, you look like a genius because you read your opponent correctly. If you win, you get their chips and can thank your brilliant “instincts” that won out over logic.
Another way we can sabotage ourselves is to let emotions take over for our heads. Be cautious about allowing feelings (ranging from anger to jealousy to embarrassment to entitlement) derail our logical thinking. In any given hand, you should always act as if nothing but making the correct decision mattered. If, instead, you are focused on settling a score, or proving something, or being rewarded, you will set yourself up for failure.
by David “THE MAVEN” Chicotsky
There are many things we must strive for if we want to do well on a consistent basis at the poker table. Very high up on that list is the ability to stay unpredictable. One way we’re able to do this is by changing up the size of our raises and re-raises. When we’re dealing with small numbers like 2 or 3 blinds - an increase or decrease of a blind or two is a substantial difference. It’s always key to focus on the things we can control in a poker tournament, and one of those things is our sizing.
In general, it’s very common to see players raise to 3x during a tournament. So when we open raise for a min raise (2x) or a large open of let’s say 3.5x - it will draw more attention than a standard raise. When we’re at the poker table we have to do our due diligence with all the other players. Knowing what their standard open-raise amount is one of the many things we must categorize and use against our opponents. The closer we pay attention to our opponents, the more information we gather, and the more precise we can be with our decision-making.
By Barbara Connors
I have long believed that there are some striking and instructive similarities between the world of poker and the world of finance, and in that spirit I want to introduce a famous character called Mr. Market. This character was invented by the late Benjamin Graham, widely regarded as the father of value investing. In his landmark book, The Intelligent Investor, Graham uses the concept of Mr. Market to illustrate how investors should approach the wild fluctuations of the stock market. He refers to Mr. Market as an emotionally unstable business partner, with an incurable case of manic-depression. On the days when he is elated, Mr. Market offers way too much money for your business. On the days when Mr. Market is despondent, he offers far too little.
by Diane McHaffie
I have to agree with Mike. I, too, prefer short-handed tables. With fewer players you should be involved in more pots, resulting in additional opportunities to win. Often your play will differ, becoming more aggressive. With fewer players, it’s easier to develop a relationship and manipulate your opponents, which has the potential to prove profitable.
Another positive to a short-handed table is that everyone is playing more hands, allowing them a chance to compete at a pace that prompts, with the end result -- more chips sliding your way.
Waiting. You absolutely must check out short-handed tables whenever you get the opportunity. It’s imperative that you know how to play in these circumstances. Not only does it prepare you for final stage of tournaments, when the tables shift down to fewer players, but it’s also an educational experience preparing you for occasions when it’s necessary to join an undermanned table. Are you actually stubbornly going to wait for a full table to take a seat, or will you join a possibly more profitable table comprised of only six or fewer players?
Timing is crucial to maximizing poker profit – but probably not in ways that come immediately to mind. Let’s discuss that in today’s selfinterview.
Question 1: What does timing have to do with poker?
When players say, “Bad timing,” or “Your timing was off,” they’re often responding politely to an opponent’s failed bluff, after calling with strong hands. They either mean to make that opponent feel better or they’re using a psychological ploy. It’s one intended to suggest that they wouldn’t have called, had their hand not been so powerful, thus inviting the foe to bluff again in the future. When you hear similar words when you’re caught bluffing, you should back away from bluffing that opponent.
You also hear someone talk about their own bad timing – or yours – in the context of having a strong second-best hand or having made a flush on the river that loses. And there are other ways that the word “timing” is commonly used in poker.
However, I’m not talking about that today. Let’s explore what I am talking about. Next question.
Question 2: I get it, you’re talking about the flow of the game, getting in sync with the action. You need timing there, right?
In order to make quality decisions in poker and in life, you need to understand the word “important.” And I’m not talking about its definition.
You already know that. Exactly what am I talking about, then? Well, that’s the topic of today’s selfinterview.
Question 1: So, what is it about the word “important” that you think I don’t understand?
Let me answer by throwing a couple of questions right back at you. Let’s say I told you to walk to the end of a hallway. Then you must turn either left and enter a room or right and exit to the patio. Waiting for you – in the room and on the patio – will be a poker hand. If you choose the higher-ranking hand, you win a billion dollars. If you choose the lower ranking one, you win nothing.
So, your questions are: If I give you 10 hours to make a decision, how much time will you spend deciding; and how important is this decision?
Question 2: Clearly you’re giving me an extreme example of decision making. Let’s see. Well, I’d probably take the whole 10 hours. And, obviously, the decision would be incredibly important – the most important one of my life. So, how did I do?
by David “THE MAVEN” Chicotsky
There are certain things we need to remind ourselves about when we play. There are other things we need to try not to think or worry too much about. It’s always smart to remind ourselves to take our time and not to rush decisions. Some players naturally draw more attention to themselves; we wouldn’t want to over-focus on a single player when there are many players to concentrate on. What’s going on in your head at the poker table needs to be pointed towards the relevant and away from the irrelevant.
I like to try and do as much thinking about the players at the table as possible before the hand. Meaning, I don’t want to wait until I’m in the middle of a hand to determine things like how aggressive of a player my opponent is (or isn’t). I want to approach the hand with those facts thought through, already gauging the tendencies of the opponent. Otherwise, I’m forced to make complicated decisions on the fly. By taking care of several of the major factors that go into the decision, all future decisions become easier. By doing this we’re able to better concentrate on the actual aspects of the hand that are important. For all of us that are forced to wait while someone thinks forever during a hand – this kind of pre-hand analysis should speed up decisions to a tolerable level.