by Tricia Tequida
Look around; low limit tournaments are everywhere. The back of this newspaper lists all the tournaments at most card rooms in the USA and it’s actually rather mind boggling just how many are available [Editors Note: also available online]. They are fun, fast, and furious, most with very few chips, and very fast blind levels. But are they really cheap? If you play just three times a week, two $40 buy-ins and one $60 entry amounts to $7,280 a year. If you cash at least twice a month, maybe it’s not too bad of an ROI. But these tournaments are not easy to win. Because you get so few chips there is no margin for error and luck is a huge factor. Realistically you have the opportunity to play one hand, and if you don’t win your first hand, you may be playing for the balance of your chips on the next hand.
I frequently play these low limit tournaments and what is the appeal?
Well let me tell ya! I recently played a $40 tournament with 157 players, an incredible number for a Monday tournament, but it was a holiday and no one was working. The prize pool was $5,000, a large sum for a daily tournament, and if you make it to the chop you are looking at about $600-$700, which is not bad for three hours work and a $40 investment!
But are low limit tournaments really poker, or merely entertainment, like playing “free” poker? And Is there a correct way to play?
Many players are novices who like to see the flop, so there are always at least 4-5 players in every pot. This makes it difficult if not impossible to bluff. Most low limit players just do not know how to fold a hand and position has no bearing, so it’s difficult to put someone on a particular hand because any two cards are playable. I am consistently surprised at what my opponents call with.
No respect is ever given to a raise, even an early position or all-in raise. The subtleties of the game are lost on many of the players; they are concerned primarily with their own cards. There is an absolute absence of any kind of meta game.
I mentioned making it to the chop, because when you start with 3,000 chips the blinds are so high at the final table that everyone is short stacked. Rarely does anyone have even 10 times the blinds, so it just doesn’t make sense to play to a conclusion because there is no play left. The only play is all-in and it’s just luck or sheer guts and aggression that decides who wins the hand.
Chopping makes sense because of the huge differences in the pay outs, if you go out fifth you might make $120, but if you chop five ways you make $600. My rule of thumb is if the number of players left will make more than second or third place money and the stacks are relatively even then it pays to chop. If I have 95 percent of the chips and there are several with less than one or two blinds I won’t. In this tournament I went all in with about 9,000 in chips, blinds at 500- 1000 with Q-Q, and four others followed me into a pot that 8-8 won by flopping quads.
That’s the nature of this beast; you have to have a strong stomach and a high tolerance for loose and suspect play.
The appeal is that it is cheap to enter, you know going into it exactly how much you are spending, and for some it’s just entertainment and probably a better value than a slot machine.
Do you have any suggestions for winning low limit tournaments? I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Poker-player Tricia Tequida is an avid fan of the game. Contact her at email@example.com.