Friday, December 23, 2005

MTT's and Learning

Studying is going very well. For anybody frustrated with variance, results or with just the grind in general...I highly reccomend getting back to studying the game. It is what I tell all students and what I do myself. Play less, study more. I have been studying MTT's, poker theory and to a lesser extent SNG's and am honing in on little leaks I think I have developed. Laziness leaks. I'm also getting my MTT juices flowing. I was given advice early on to find a niche and grind out a living for awhile before playing a lot of MTT's, due to the variance involved. This was great advice, I had nowhere near the confidence in the long term viability of this endeavor as I do now. If it has gone bad, I would have quit. I would have not gotten to live this life. Thanks Steve.

Now I am very comfortable with my long term poker prospects. No bad run is going to break me or shake my resolve. Time to get back to my true love, MTT's. Nothing gives me the thrill or rush like going deep in an MTT gives me. Nothing in life.

So while studying MTT's I came upon one of the most amazing pieces of poker writing I have ever found. It was written by Jason Strasser (Strassa2). I've posted it below, enjoy:

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Poker is about being creative. The allowance for creativity increases in poker as stacks get deeper. As biggy used to say, 'Mo' Money Mo' Problems'--that is, for bad players (money = bb). The advantage for creative play and skilled play is much higher as blinds get higher. Since blinds in a tournament are often very big compared to stack sizes, less skill can be used to press edges than in a standard cash game, which may account for the popularity of tournament poker where literally anyone can win.

But there is a certain mindset I believe winning tournament players have. First of all, Barry Greenstein once wrote something that really changed my outlook on poker in general. On his website, he described a player as being 'solid', and it had extreme negative conotations. Is that a good thing? No. Solid means shitty. Its sweet that you can reraise before the flop with premium hands, fold shitty ones, and play right along with your cards. Some people do well (esp online with all the terrible play). But if you want to become a real tournament player, you don't want to be solid.

So in a tournament, when blinds are low in the beginning, I am generally looking for blood. I want to selectively play certain hands where I believe opponents are dishing out good implied odds, and I want to make big hands. I like to take a lot of flops and try to win just enough smallish pots (blind steals, simple bet/call-bet/fold hands) without sticking my neck out there.

As my stack gets smaller proportional to blinds, it does not become as advantageous to bleed off chips to try to bust people. Instead of going for the knockout punch, I make my money by 'standard tournament' methods (like getting it all in PF with a hand). I'm not really scared of coinflips, because I know if I have the chips I can use them well. That said, I don't go out of my way looking for them. But say I have AK and raise and a player goes over the top all in. If his range of hands is AA-66 AK-AJ thats is an obvious insta call for me. If there is a decent shot I have him thoroughly dominated, I wont fold scared of a coinflip. This should be quite obvious.

I also make a lot of money stealing blinds and stealing from others. I love situations where there is a weak raise (not weak in amt, but just a weak raise from a laggy person who I dont believe) and a flat call or two. Especially with a stack 13-25xbb or so, this spot is often ideal to just shove it in there with anything. Typically the only one you have to be worried about is the open raiser.

Once the bubble rolls around, I turn it on if I have any chips. You will never see me sacrificing a legitimate shot to make a run at a tournament for last place money. The bubble is when you need to destroy the middle and even larger stacks. I'm all about attacking stacks on the bubble. Make the medium stacks commit their stack preflop. Rob blinds from the timid small-medium stacks. If the big stack raises, as he should with many hands to steal blinds off scared bubblers, come over the top of him. Pick your spots wisely, but have these moves in your bag of tricks.

But more importantly than anything said in this entire thread, tournament poker is about plans. You have AJ in early MP with 17xbb. There are lots of valid options. UTG raises you have a small pair in mp, again, there are lots of options. Try to sort out what you are going to do, but most importantly, why. Put people on ranges of hands, guess. Find good spots to create fold equity, which is key in tournaments (stop and go). All that involves plans. You need to think things through and have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish with every action. That is what really makes people good.

And if you are fortunate to get deep into a tournament, enjoy it. You play these damn things for the shot at a final table and the thrill of big money at the end of the tunnel. Its the joy of getting deep in a tournament which does not compare to anything else in poker IMO. If you don't enjoy the end of a tournament and dont get adrenaline rushing, its not for you. Trust your instincts, and if/when you bust out, at least go out knowing you think you played correctly.

After tournaments, analyze the big hands (won and lost). Most often some of the big pots you won were played poorly versus the ones you lost.

-Jason