by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
In many ways, poker is an investment game. We are investing with a certain strength of cards, from different positions, against opponents with various chip stacks. Each component in the equation will change how we approach and play each hand. Overall, we are looking to ride the tide of the tournament until the end - with only us left with all of the chips.
One of the finer points of successfully navigating the tournament trails is figuring out which players to go after and which to avoid. Think of it in terms of investing. Would you invest against an investor like Warren Buffett (let’s say, selling a stock that he just bought)? Likewise, would you want to play hands against Phil Ivey if you can help it? All of that said, given the cards we’re holding, we’re sometimes forced to enter pots, even if it is against a player we might not prefer playing against.
It’s important to prioritize who we want to enter pots against and who we don’t want to play against. If we create a sliding scale in our mind, it’s possible to gauge our chances of winning a given hand by increasing the perceived value or devaluing any given situation. For example, we can devalue an ace-ten or ace-nine suited type hand if we’re going up against a quality opponent. At the same time, a hand like 7-9 suited might be more than enough to raise into (or re-raise) a weaker player - taking control and willingly entering what we view as a positive expected value spot.
Just like with Wall Street, poker players look for insights into winning strategies. After all, that’s why you’re probably reading this article (and why I pick up poker magazines and read them myself). It’s a never ending quest to attain more knowledge; the more we know about the game, the more fun it is to play. Nothing is more fun than winning. We’re also going to see cyclical trends in our poker results. Especially in tournaments, we’re only going to cash a small percentage of the times we play; much less win the tournament.
One thing I’ve always liked about playing online poker compared to live poker is the ability to diversify the amount of money I’m investing into tournaments. Rather than put $1,000 into one live tournament, I’m able to play twenty $50 tournaments. It’s just a different form of investing. We also hear about how many tournaments it takes to get a decent sample size and clearly it’s much easier to achieve that if you’re able to play online. Another thing worth mentioning is online tournaments usually have between 5 and 15 minute levels (with live tournaments usually consisting of 20 to 60 minute levels).
Aside from our hand, the most obvious factor that goes into the investment equation in a hand would be our position. I’m of the opinion that the average player plays too many hands out of position and not enough in position. Ask yourself this: Would you rather call out of the big blind with king-jack or raise the button with jack-six suite? I’d say these two situations are relatively comparable from an expected value standpoint. I’d venture to guess that most players would rather call out of position with the stronger hand than play a mediocre strength hand in position.
Just like with investing in the stock market, it’s best to keep emotions out of the equation and focus solely on what moves make us money. Don’t let personal preference blindside you and cause you to diminish your profit-making opportunities. The next time you sit down to play poker, think of it like an investment game. Look for profitable situations and pounce on them.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also an experienced poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com