Tournament Smarts

Current Bankroll: $0.75 - 1.65M Play Chips

The key to success in any poker tournament is knowing how to pick your battles and avoid situations that can put you at risk. More than simple calculations of odds and profit in the long run, a skilled tournament player must be ready to fold even the biggest hands when they just aren't worth the risk to play, and especially being able to push in just the right situation regardless of cards in the hole in order to avoid being placed at the mercy of the blinds.

Katitude has an excellent article about just how frustrating it can be to make those tough folds and then end up flopping the nuts. Folding AKs is not an easy thing to do, but if you consider the situation, facing a 5*BB raise amounting to almost a third of your total stack, you're much better off in the long run waiting for a situation where you can build your stack with much less risk.

The basic rule of thumb is that if calling a raise and losing puts you close to blinds risk whereas folding outright leaves you still sitting pretty, your best option is to fold. Just about the only hand I'd want to play in such a situation would be AA since I know that I would have a big advantage going to the flop, and just about every other hand you'd have to worry about being behind and would be forced to hit something on the flop.

But even with these rules laid out clearly, it's not always easy to just walk away from those big hands after hours of sitting around waiting for them. Just last night I started getting anxious near the end of a $1 90-player tournament and decided to push with pocket 10's. A big stack behind me reraised me putting me nearly all-in. If I had just folded the hand outright I still would have had plenty of time to wait for a better hand to push all-in with, but instead I was stuck going all-in with a pair of tens which easily busted out when the big stack showed jacks and ended up hitting trips on the flop.

I guess part of experience is simply having the discipline to act on the rules that you set for yourself. No matter how well you know how to play, it doesn't help if you can't stay strong all the way through a tournament because one moment of weakness like that can bust you out quite quickly.

I'll just have to keep playing and keep learning from my mistakes. I'm back down to .75 now so I'll have to wait for another shot at the 500k play chip freeroll before I can hit the real money tourneys again. I really like the 90-player one better than the 45 player one. You start double-stacked which givese you a lot more time to wait for a hand, and the prize-pool is spread out over 18 spots rather than just 6, so you have much better odds to cash. The next few days won't leave me with much time to hit the tables, but I'll try to build my play chip stack back up until I have time to take another shot at the 500k.


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