Over the next several posts in this series, I’ll be breaking down the most fundamental areas of your MTT game which may need work, and sketching out the main things you need to get your head around within MTT poker strategy in order to master a solid ABC game which will be enough to crush the small stakes.
Factors Which Need Weighting
Every time you bet, check, call or fold you should be able to give good reasons as to why you’ve done so, and to question these reasons in your own review and consider different alternatives and the relative qualities of those alternatives. In order to weigh up what is actually best we must have a good grasp of all the poker fundamentals as well as several concepts which are more specific to tournaments.
Principally this will mean understanding absolute hand values, how to calculate probabilities and count outs, an understanding of position and of the range of options available to you with different stack sizes. As in any form of poker we must learn how to put our opponents on a suitable range of possible hands given how they have played the hand up to now as well as previous hands we’ve observed. We must make good estimates given incomplete information.
In tournaments we will have to add an understanding of ICM as well as doing more in depth work on the mathematics behind playing different effective stack sizes, since these vary so wildly across any given MTT, while effective stacks tend to remain fairly deep and to vary a lot less in cash games. We also need to be able to exploit bad players’ flaws at different stages of the tournament and in different formats.
Common MTT Poker Leaks
Since to develop a solid standard of play we must both eliminate our own biggest leaks and understand and exploit the leaks of others, it makes good sense to teach a solid MTT play style by running over the most common poker leaks and how to patch them. While the list is long, I believe it is possible to give you the pointers you need for patching your own leaks with just a brief analysis on each case in point. Noticing the need to patch a leak is half the job, the easy half admittedly. The hard work you must do on your own is in review, running over these concepts and how they figure in your own game, and making the appropriate adjustments. Most of the next several posts in this series will be listing and giving some initial analysis on these common MTT leaks.
Adjustments and GTO
Making adjustments to our opponents’ mistakes is obviously crucial to profiting in MTT poker play. Broadly speaking there are two ways to play poker – we can play an exploitable style or a game theory optimal one (GTO).
A game theory optimal approach assumes that opponents are observing and adjusting to one another’s play, and tries to figure out a hypothetically least exploitable and optimally balanced way of playing which it is going to be hardest for tough opponents to win against. For example, against an observant opponent I wouldn’t want to size my value hand bets bigger and my bluffs smaller all the time, since this would be easily adjusted against and allow my opponent to exploit me ruthlessly and profitably. If I balance my bet sizings, perhaps mixing in bluffs and value bets of both smaller and larger sizings, this part of my game is going to be harder to exploit.
However, against bad unobservant players, balancing my bet sizings is not only going to be unnecessary but positively unhelpful for our bottom line, since villains are going to pay off our value bets when we go bigger, and still fold to our well-timed bluffs when we make them smaller (if our timing and choice of villain to bluff is indeed appropriate). Against a bad player, a GTO approach will very often be sub-optimal.
Playing a style which is exploitable in principle, but which gives us the room to exploit others’ mistakes will often be optimal in MTT play - provided the field is soft and our opponents are bad. In the micros, I’d suggest that 90%+ of your opponents will be recreational fish or at least very bad regulars, and there are still plenty of these players at the softer higher stakes games such as the Sunday Million. There are so many good examples of profitable exploitable adjustments and plays that I may have to run a whole post on this specific topic later in the series.
In the next post we’ll start to run over the common leaks in earnest, starting with the fundamentals. These upcoming posts will take the content looked at in overview in my recent Pokertube webinar “MTT Leakbusting”, and look in-depth into each of those leak areas and how to improve on them. You can check out that webinar here.