bardorodeo's avatar


9 points

Some things to consider:

1) What are the stack sizes of the players? Do you have everyone covered? Do you have the person who 3Bet MP2 covered?

2) How much history do you have with these players? Are they random people you've only seen play a few dozen hands over an hour or so? Or are they regulars you have history with? This can help you think in terms of their 3BET and Calling ranges.

3)Have you seen MP2 3Bet or open raise without following through with continuation bets on the flop before? The standard play is for the opener or the 3Bettor to make a continuation bet on the flop. When someone decides to do the non-standard play ask yourself "Why?" If this is a good player I would have alarm bells going off that they might be trapping me by choosing to check vs. C-bet on the flop.

4) I like your 4-betting if you plan is to get head's up with MP2 and are willing to commit your stack in this hand. You must, absolutely must, have a plan for what you will do for the rest of the hand. You should already be thinking what you will do if MP2 checks or continuation bets. Like a previous reply pointed out this plan should be based on your read of the player's 3Bet range.

5) I wouldn't advise just jamming pre-flop as this just allows the players to play perfectly against you by only calling you with AA, KK, and maybe QQ. Depending on how loose the game is people may call a pre-flop shove with JJ.

6) The option of calling with AKo on the button isn't the worst option. If everyone checks, the flop and you check behind you may get a free card on the turn to hit your A or K. In your example I really doubt that the HJ has a premium pair and just called with you still to act behind. I've seen very good tournament players cold call 3bets with players left behind with AA's or KK's, with the hope that an aggressive player left to act behind them will 4-bet and then they can do a 5-bet shove. This is an advance play and most inexperienced players would just 4-bet instead of trying to induce someone to 4 bet behind them.

7) Another advantage of just calling on the flop is that you may induce the 3-bettor to bluff with a hand that you dominate ( AQ, AJ, KQ, etc. ). Depending on the flop texture (especially if a Q didn't hit) you could call a small bet on the flop (float) with the intention of trying to bluff them on the turn as your stack to pot ratio wouldn't have you as committed to the hand as if you would be when you 4-bet pre-flop. Even with the Q on the flop and the 3-bettor checking the flop to you are in the best position to take a stab at the pot on either the flop or the turn.

March 23, 2017 | 10:09 p.m.

Every weekend at the Aria, Wynn and Venetian. Even the supposed "deepstacks" they run are chock full of "terrible" players. But you have to be willing to embrace the variance and think long-term to realize your expected value from these "fish". I like to think of a field of players in a live Vegas MTT you will find about 5% great players, 25% sold regulars, 50% tourist/occasional players, and 30% I don't have a clue how to categorize them except maybe degenerate "action junkies" who are playing for first or nothing.

Surviving the early and middle stages of most of these live tourneys is a bit like trying to walk across the street of an old west town back in the 1800's in the middle of a gunfight between a bunch of drunk gunfighters. One gunfighter has a small chance of hitting you, but when you have to dodge bullets from a big posse of them, you'll need to have a fair amount of luck on your side.

If luck is on your side you may be able to survive to when mostly only better players are left then you can use what you learn from sites like this about how to play late stage tournament poker.

And the sad reality is that "long-term" can be a very long time and is a bit of an illusion anyway. Play tourney's for fun, but if you want to build a bankroll stick to cash games at buyin levels that you can afford.

Nobody "deserves" to win big money in this game of chance anyway. If you do, congratulations and I wish you more good fortune. Just remember that being in the right place at the right time, and having the confidence to keep making correct decisions based on the incomplete information you have is all that you can really do.

A little secret that the pros know is that when they want to really make some money they spend as much or more time trying to find games with rich "whales". This site would probably never have been created if it wasn't for a lot of the money that came from whales like Guy Laliberte who dumped tonnes of cash back in the glory days of online poker.

March 26, 2016 | 11:26 p.m.

Comment | bardorodeo commented on MTT strategy

MTTs are more about valuing survival over maximizing equity, generally. Even though it is an old-school saying there is a lot of truth to "The goal in a tournament is to figure out how to survive long enough and hope to get lucky at the end." For example, if you have a medium sized stack over 50 BB's in the early/middle stages of a tournament, and you rate yourself as one of the more skilled/experienced players left in the field, it would be a bit foolish to risk the majority of your stack in one single hand even though you might be getting it in as a slight favorite.

Think of your stack as having an expected value in terms of the likelihood it is giving you of finishing in the money. The potential future value of your current stack would not increase as much as it would stand to lose by adding 25BB's to a 50BB's stack.

The types of hands and plays you can use are about the same for a 50BB and 75BB stack. But with a 25BB stack your starting hand requirements and types of plays you can profitably use (e.g. 3 betting, 4 betting to steal or re-steal) are limited.

Playing tight aggressive, in position, and paying attention to the types of hand ranges and playing tendencies of each of your opponents at your table is usually a recipe for getting good results in MTTs.

There is so much variance that even with playing solid tournament poker you also need to run good at the right times to get into the money and finish in the top where most of the value is sitting.

MTTs are about knowing how to have enough mental toughness and awareness of the game's variance to endure losing the majority of times you play.

There are no "silver bullets" or formulas for guaranteeing tournament wins. You need to be ready to put in as much work, or more, away from the tables studying and working on your game. The more work and time analyzing situations and how best to adapt and exploit how your current opponents are playing, the more opportunities you will give yourself.

Feb. 12, 2016 | 12:59 a.m.

I think the best players adapt to play whatever style best fits the situation. Each table and session can be different with a mix of player types. I think in MTTs the best players know how to choose a style that best fits their current stack size and how fast or slow a tournament structure is. So if it is the WSOP main event with hour long levels and a very slow structure, it is probably not wise to get into situations where you only have a slight edge / advantage because you should emphasize survival. I think it is why MTTs are so challenging as you should be devising and executing a game plan before each tournament you enter. But, like you are pointing out, a player needs to be flexible in adapting to changing situations that develop as a tournament progresses.

Feb. 4, 2016 | 2:29 a.m.

I too struggle with entitlement tilt and victim mentality when playing poker. Tommy Angelo's work is probably the best stuff out there on how to work on reducing the effects of these types of things on your game. Elements of Poker and his Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment will certainly help if you take them to heart. Easier said than done. Also Dr. Schoonmaker has written a few articles recently on locus of control which may help you with the victim mentality issue.

Here is what I've taken from both of their work that is currently helping me with these issues:

1) Remember that no one is entitled to win at poker. If you buy into a tourney, or buy a rack of chips, all you are entitled to is the opportunity to sit and play at the table.

2) Put poker in its proper place in your life and the grand scheme of things. Even if it is how you pay the bills. Just like any other job or career, you must find time away from poker to have a balanced life. Make time for friends and other hobbies. Have other interests that are not related to poker. If you have a life rich with experiences and joy beyond the poker table, then those bad beats and downswings won't seem so bad. If all you do is play poker, every bad beat will feel worse than it really is. And if you don't have good things going on outside of poker it can seem like everything in your life is going bad.

3) Sleep. Rest. Take breaks. Eat Well. Exercise. If I'm not well rested and fed, I know that I will tend to play "impatient poker" and play my C game. I get angry at others and do some very -EV plays. I recognize this pattern and try to avoid it at all costs.

4) Meditate in whatever way you like be that prayer, going for a run, mindfulness exercises. These really help me stay humble and appreciative that I have the time and money to play a game for fun & profit. I am grateful and lucky to be doing something like playing poker instead of worrying about where to find enough food & water for my daily needs. Most people on this planet are dealing with some pretty awful and tough circumstances.

5) Don't take poker too seriously. It is a rich and wonderful game. Full of opportunity to continually learn and improve. After losing a big hand or during a downswing. First look inward to how you could improve and/or approach the game in a different way. By Take responsibility for your own outcomes & results instead of looking outward and trying to blame others (victim mentality).

6) Have fun. At least for me since I play live MTT's I really enjoy the social aspect. And as a bonus. When I'm having fun, relaxing and really enjoying playing the game for the game's sake, I usually have better results. If you don't think you will enjoy the session you're about to play, why not just do something else? Take a friend to dinner. Go for a walk. Listen to some nice music. Try learning a new language, musical instrument. Anything. Just don't play poker when you have a feeling that your mind wants to be elsewhere.


Jan. 6, 2016 | 3:01 a.m.

I think it is probably more important to factor in other variables besides bet sizing for each situation that your are considering a 3 barrel bluff to determine if it is a +EV play in the long-run. What are the effective stack size? Position? Your image? Opponents image/style? Since this is posted in the MTT forum, what level of the tournament? How fast/slow is the structure? How many are left in the tournament? Your estimated skill advantage/disadvantage over the rest of the remaining players to determine if the risk of losing chips is costing your by making it less likely you'll be around for better +EV spots later in the tournament. And finally, do you think the actions you took during the hand tell a compelling enough story for the hand you are representing? Is this live or online?
So, in my opinion, which is biased as I play mostly live MTT's, but welcome any other thoughts as I think people have focused too much on balancing ranges when most players aren't paying attention.

Dec. 13, 2015 | 6:07 p.m.

Yeah. Well it will be interesting to see what Alex's upcoming book will recommend regarding playing styles. I think if a person is starting out it is logical to play TAG style as it is easier to learn and apply. Good LAG's need a bit more hand reading skills and discipline to lay down seemingly good hands in marginal spots.

The TAG vs LAG post from Phil Galfond is fantastic (as most readers of this site know) with the very insightful ideas and analysis from all the "poker brains".

One thing I remember reading from Alex a while ago was that the better poker players are the ones who can recognize and see more of the variables in a hand/situation; are able to analyze these variables in game; and then make the appropriate decision based on their experience and judgement.

I really like that way of viewing poker as a game of strategy because it likens it to games like chess in which players who can think deeper and more moves ahead have an advantage.

So maybe the chess analogy of the TAG style is to learn most of the standard opening moves and focusing on controlling the squares at the center of the chess board; and to play conservatively (avoiding being checkmated) and only attack when your opponent makes a mistake.

The chess analogy for the LAG style, then, would seem to be to learn to counter a conservative opponent's predictable, standard, "by the book" moves and to make riskier and aggressive moves that may expose a temporary weakness, but may yield a quick and decisive win by confusing a less experienced opponent.

I've always thought that to give chess players who have never played poker an idea of what it feels like to play poker would be to design a chess game in which there was a sort of "random piece altering" gizmo. So the chess rules are the all the same except that once every 5 minutes this "random piece altering" gizmo would make one of the chess pieces move to a different location, make a piece appear or disappear.

Nov. 27, 2015 | 5:04 p.m.

An interesting article from Alex Fitzgerald at the end of this post.  He is arguing to take small risk / chip accumulation strategy (aka "small ball") which is very effective for a player who has good hand reading skills and the discipline to fold marginal hands.   The other strategy that we've seen dominate the Wynn tournaments (especially the Saturday unlimited re-buy) is the take big risks to get a big stack early while re-buys are still allowed ("long ball").  Aggressive playersn try to make pots huge in the early going and target timid weak passive players who don't want to get involved in huge pots early on.
I'm a fan of playing "small ball" v.s "long ball" but I do appreciate the advantages / disadvantages of both.

Small Ball Strategy's Advantages include:
  1)  staying alive longer with a medium to small stack
  2)  avoiding "cooler" / "bad beat"  minefield spots more often
  3)  letting weaker players in the field bust out earlier and remaining alive in a tournament in order to use one's skill advantage
Small Ball Strategy's Disadvantages include:
  1) Easy to exploit from more loose aggressive players who will notice that the small ball player is avoiding big pots and confrontations. 
  2) Stack size often is small or medium at later levels / final table making it more difficult to reach the top three spots, resulting in a smaller ROI with frequent min cashes.

Alex's article below argues the pros of small ball strategy.   I think like most things in poker it is an "it depends" situation.   I think large field MTT's like the WSOP and others should warrant a strategy to stay alive longer than less experienced / skilled players in order to give the more experienced / skilled player a chance to use those skills.

Whereas a smaller MTT with relatively fast blind structure (30 minute levels,  a few missing levels) would advocate a more aggressive style to accumulate a bigger chip stack early.  But I would add that being able to change gears and play a tad more conservative to protect that big stack is prudent.  

Long Ball Strategy's Advantages include:
  1)  Being the aggressor more often than not in hands which maximize's fold equity / fear equity
  2)  Gets chips from steals and exploiting weak tight & passive players who fold too often.
  3)  Provides a good chance to finish in the top three spots to get a bigger payout / ROI
Long Ball Strategy's Disadvantages include:
  1) Introduces higher variance into one's game. (In the money % goes down).
  2) Requires playing many tournaments in order to realize the ROI by getting into the money and the top three spots.
  3) Lose chips to tight passive players who are not able to be bluffed.

Given all the dynamics and hidden luck in MTT's (table draws, variance of the game, etc.) there is no easy answer.   

p.s.  I listened to an interview from Phil Helmuth after he won an EPT  NLHE event last year where he stated that his game plan was to apply maximum pressure and aggression right from the start.  Quite ironic given his reputation as such a nitty player.   But, I bet Phil's version of loose aggressive is a bit more conservative.

Go For The Win, Not EquityPosted on November 2, 2015 by Alex Fitzgerald

Let me ask you something: In poker tournaments is your goal to maximize your equity of every single hand you play?
It seems like a simple question. Of course, we want to make as much money as possible. However, the answer to this question is complex.
Think of Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey. Pretty much no one on Earth would dispute that Ivey is a much better poker player than Hellmuth. Yet, Hellmuth has 13 Hold’em bracelets and Phil Ivey has none.
This seems odd. Many contend that Ivey is the best professional poker player in the world. He’s played the WSOP for more than a decade. He often makes large bets on whether he can win a championship. In fact, it seems he can win in every other format, except for No Limit Hold’em tournaments.
In my humble opinion Phil Ivey’s issue is that he’s an attack dog. When he sees equity he pounces. This has made him untold millions from the game, and has made him dangerous in the highest cash games on Earth. In poker tournaments however it is a liability.
When you see Phil Hellmuth sweating what looks like a trivial hand there is a reason for it. He is thinking about the entire tournament. He is imagining how the table will play out with his new chip position if he does each action. He’s not just computing what his equity is in the particular hand. He’s asking himself what are his opportunities going into the future. How much profit is he sacrificing down the road if he makes this play right now?
It is a nuanced way to think about poker tournaments, and given his staggering results it would seem to be correct. What we can deduce from his tournament strategy is that poker tournaments are not about maximizing profits at each turn. If that were the case Hellmuth would naturally transition into the biggest cash games. It’s actually about getting as far as one possibly can. That means getting profit from as many hands as possible (i.e. accumulating chips from more small and medium pots than winning them in a few large pots).
When you risk all of your chips in a tournament almost without fail you’re betting more than you stand to win. Going from 20 big blind to zero is far more damaging than going from 20 to 40 is helpful, despite the fact it is the same numeric value. Also, when your chip stack or expected growth is greatly diminished you have a lesser chance of seeing all the hands afforded to you in one tournament. If you were going to be allotted 430 hands in this particular event, but you snapped off at hand 200 trying to get an extra big blind or two of equity, then you have made a poor mistake.
Your goal is to see as many hands as possible. That means you need to stay alive. To do this, you need to get in, get a few chips, and get out as often as possible. The less you risk the fewer ICM disasters you can make. When you make small moves the big blinds you’re betting are closer to the same value as what you stand to gain. It’s only when we play for all of it and our tournament life that we can make colossal errors.
To do this, we must balance. If you have a hand that works as three bet and a flat, you should flat. Why? Because later when you have a garbage suited one-gapper that can only be profitably played as a three bet you will be frustrated with yourself for having burned out the play earlier on a hand that didn’t require it.
Is there someone at your table who folds often to reraise? Reraise big with your dry aces, because they are horrible to play postflop. When you get a bluffing hand that more post flop potential, say a J-10 offsuit, three bet smaller.
Stagger your raise sizes, carefully allot your hands, and play as much as possible without diminishing your returns. It doesn’t matter how many chips you come into the final three with. That’s still where all the money is. Last as long as possible.
Good luck to all of you.

Nov. 26, 2015 | 1:04 a.m.

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