by Tom McEvoy
This is my very first column for Poker Player Newspaper. I feel it is appropriate that this issue comes out at the very beginning of the World Series of Poker—the biggest and the best poker tournament in the world. I have had a love affair with the World Series of Poker ever since I stumbled into the Horseshoe in the Spring of 1978 and saw a young Bobby Baldwin take down the dapper Crandall Addington. Standing in the crowd, all I could think was, “wow, that is where I want to be someday.” I am living proof that sometimes your dreams can come true. Five years later I was in that situation, and winning the main event was, and always will be, the high point of my poker career.
It is my intention to write on a variety of poker topics for this newspaper, but since the World Series is upon us, I thought for this issue, I would write a few tournament tips. I have often been asked: How has the game changed over the years? The game itself has always remained the same, but how people play it is, indeed, quite different from when I first came on the scene. With that being said, I will give forth with my observations and poker insights.
Aggression in and out of position has increased. This is probably the most significant change in tournament strategy in the last several years. Players are constantly re-raising each other with very marginal holdings. It’s like a contest to see who has the bigger set of balls. If a player thinks another player is a little weak, they will come over the top of that player with a big raise, trying to re-steal the pot. The original raiser may then decide that the player who re-raised him is making a play at him and then raise again, even if his hand is weak. The player who made the re-raise may think that he is now being bluffed and fire another bullet, often going all-in to try and win the pot without a showdown. It’s amazing to see what some of the hands are like when the betting is done. Watching it play out on television often gives the viewing audience a false idea as to how to play. Often the players make these plays when they are very deep in the tournament, and the blinds and antes are quite high, so there is more incentive to make aggressive plays against each other. What is also very interesting is that positional play is often discarded and players might be making these types of plays in very early position.
The usual thinking is that you need a stronger hand to raise up front than you do in middle and late position. This type of strategy is often totally ignored by the players. If a player thinks he can make another player lay down his hand he will reraise with air, if he thinks he can get away with it. This type of aggression is more effective later in the tournament. The blinds and antes are often not big enough to justify this kind of risk in the early stages.
I have been working on revamping my own game to adjust to these new strategies. It is possible for an old dog to learn new tricks. I am constantly studying the younger players, especially the internet hotshots. The younger players that have had some success, especially interest me, and I can learn from them. You can too, and you can make adjustments to your own game to improve.
Tom McEvoy is not only a professional player, but a teacher. He does private instruction as well as public seminars for Deepstacks University. He is also the head pro for www.faceupgaming.com. It is a legal subscription site for only $24.95 per month. Check it out and use Tom for your bonus code.