I recently played a No-Limit Hold'em tournament on the Internet. This was a real eye opener. I have won four of these tournaments and I am now familiar with how they play out.
The following tournament gave me some very special insights into how players wind up with all the chips. Five hundred players put up $109 each. The prize pool was $50,000 with $4,500 going to the site.
First place was $13,000 and 50 places were paid. After a few hours I wound up as the chip leader. I don't remember the hands, but I do remember making much tougher calls at critical times than I usually do to get there. I must have battled it out head up four or five times when I had a reasonably good hand on the flop or turn, and the other player made me make a tough decision to call and either win a big pot or get busted. Each time I called I won.
The best players on the Internet look for signs of weakness, and when they find them they force you to risk all your chips or lay down your hand. They look for signs that even though your hand may be fairly strong, it is not quite strong enough to defend where a loss would knock you out of the tournament. Most players if faced with this choice lay down big hands and only call or raise the pot if they have close to the nuts.
I do remember the key hand that I played toward the end of the tournament that threw a bright light on this aspect of the successful players who were already in the money and in good chip position late in the tournament. I was one of the chip leaders with $70,000 in chips. My cards were 7,7 and I came in calling a small raise on the button behind four others. The flop was 9c,9s,2s. It was checked to me and I bet 80% of the pot and was called by one player. The turn card was the three of clubs and first to act I made a much larger bet of $10,000. The other player raised me the same amount and I raised him back another $10,000. Then he went all in. I had a few more chips then he had and I called all in.
I took my time and seriously considered laying down the hand and waiting for another opportunity where I wouldn't be putting the whole tournament on the line to make a tough call. Two things came into my mind. 1. The entry fee was only $109 and I could play those tournaments all day long. 2. The amount of chips in that pot already would make me the chip leader of the tournament and with one more card to come, anything could happen if he didn't have a nine. I really did assume that this player had me beat up to then but I decided to call and take my chances. Of course if he had the nine I was drawing dead. He had expertly played his hand just as if he had a nine. That gave me the clue to consider calling him. If he had a nine he probably would have waited till the river to go all in.
We turned our hands over. He had no pair, just a Jack and an Eight off suit. The river card was naturally a Jack so he knocked me out and probably went on to win the tournament. Whoever he was, he had gotten to be a chip leader playing with more skill to get there than I can imagine. The lesson for me was huge and I am sharing it with you in this article.
1. The skill level of the players who often get to the final tables in these Internet tournaments is very high. They are very creative and will surprise you.
2. They have raised their skill level over many Internet tournaments and have accumulated many years worth of experience in a short time.
3. They are hard workers who study all of the books and use all of the new technology to learn the probable odds and implied odds to help them make decisions.
4. They put in a full 8-12 hour day playing and studying poker and use their winnings to take very high risks. They are not interested making it into the money, but winning first place.
5. They usually have study groups and partners and often have more than one person helping them make decisions during the end of tournaments.
6. They keep detailed records of the other players and share the records with their associates.
7. They continually change their user names and addresses and play many different sites.
8. They play as many as five games at a time and make their decisions decisively.
9. This is serious business for them and a few do extremely well. It is their chosen profession. 10. They attack you!!!, smack you!!!! and then they try to wack you!!!!! with nothing.
11. Attack eM!, Smack eM!! and Wack eM!!! back and take their chips when they have nothing!!!!! Hands I recently called all-in in no-limit hold'em tournaments on the Internet.
1. I have 6,10 in big blind. Small blind checks. Flop K,6,3. I bet $600 SB calls. Turn a 5 we both check. I check SB goes all in for $2100. I call and win. SB had 3,10, Ten High.
2. I raise with A,Q, One caller. Flop is 8,5,2, rainbow. I bet 1300 and am called. On river I check. Other player goes all in for his last 3900. I call and win with A,Q high. He had A,9 high.
I am passing on some recent experiences playing no-limit hold'em tournaments on the Internet. I hope this is helpful and broadens your prospective of the game. If you have opened your eyes to another option in your decision making process and don't continue to lay down hands without much thought, I have achieved my goal. Please don't make mindless calls always thinking someone is bluffing. I will have hurt your game more than helped it if you do that. Tough lay downs are still the key to winning tournaments. Tough calls at critical times are also a key to winning, although they should be used less often.
Take your time and review all you know about your opponent, and each action he has taken in that particular hand before you act.
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