Poker Tournaments & SNG's

“He Who Wishes to Fight Must First Count the Cost” - Using ICM to Crush Monkeys Part 2

4,273 Views 0 Comments on 18/11/14

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In the last article I explained why you can use the principles of ICM to manipulate your opponents and force them to fold pokerimage huge chunks of their range. Unfortunately though, applying a concept in the wrong situations can lead to huge mistakes. Let's say you know how to down a pint of lager in 4 seconds, which is impressive, but if you were to pull out this party trick at a job interview, I think it’s safe to say you probably wouldn't get the job! Of course, knowing how and why to do something is important, but in truth it's only half of the battle and knowing when to implement something is just as important. Often your opponents will suspect that you are trying to manipulate them to try to make them fold, so you need to make sure that they have a good reason to give up, here are some useful things to look out for when trying to identify where you can apply extra pressure:

  • You have the Villain covered – Forget what your girlfriend told you, size is everything, and it's vital that you have a stack size that can intimidate the targeted player. Usually we will want to have them covered, this isn't a necessity, but because we're trying to manipulate our opponents' fear of loss to push them off hands towards the top of their range, we need a stack big enough to make them uncomfortable. Not only can big stacks often breed a sense of invincibility (and a greater willingness to gamble), it's tough to put pressure on someone that can't be knocked out, especially if your stack is a “drop in the ocean” as far as they're concerned. A stack size that could cripple our opponent’s stack can be as effective, but remember, the smaller your stack, the less pressure it will assert.
  • Have they satellited in? – If you've ever been lucky enough to win a satelite into your first ever high stakes live tournament, you'll probably be familiar with the nitty mode that can kick in here and there. I remember my first major tournament, a WPT in Ireland in January 2012; I was massively out of my depth and ended up playing way too tight. I was simply overwhelmed by the stakes and this led to me being run over during the first day. Check tracking sites such as Sharkscope, or Hendon Mob, to find out your opponents’ usual stakes. If their average stake over the last 6 months is $3 and this is a $100 tournament you can be pretty sure the money is a big deal for them. Perhaps they have satellited into this tournament and are playing much higher than they are used to (sharkscope covers satellites). A bi-product of higher stakes is bigger prize jumps, and if we know that each pay jump is significant for our opponent, we can usually expect them to err on the side of caution. The WSOP main event bubble is a great example of this, and I've heard tales of people folding without even looking at their cards because a min cash is a huge deal for a $30 satellite qualifier.
  • Have they shown a desire to try to ladder? – Keep your eyes peeled for anything that might indicate they are keen to ladder. Have they mentioned it directly in the chat box, or berated someone for needlessly isolating or doubling up a short stack? Maybe you've noticed them tightening up as the bubble has approached or realised they're taking longer to make seemingly simple decisions. Sometimes it's obvious who prioritizes laddering over the win; not everyone tries to bully with a big stack, some people will tighten up knowing they are likely to secure a top 3 finish. I'm not saying this is always a bad plan, but these players are good candidates to attack relentlessly.
  • Have they shown a desire to try to ladder? – Keep your eyes peeled for anything that might indicate they are keen to ladder. Have they mentioned it directly in the chat box, or berated someone for needlessly isolating or doubling up a short stack? Maybe you've noticed them tightening up as the bubble has approached or realised they're taking longer to make seemingly simple decisions. Sometimes it's obvious who prioritizes laddering over the win; not everyone tries to bully with a big stack, some people will tighten up knowing they are likely to secure a top 3 finish. I'm not saying this is always a bad plan, but these players are good candidates to attack relentlessly.
  • Is there a short stacks you can use as leverage – Laddering is never more likely than when there is a mega short stack at the table, and several short stacks will make most people way more risk adverse. When someone has less than 10bbs or so they are on life support and players with 25-40bbs will (sensibly) try to wait out the shortly to secure the virtually guaranteed pay jump. You see this a lot in 3 and 4 handed play where there is an overwhelming chip leader, a short-stack and a one or two mid-stacks. If you're a mid stack when there’s a super short stack this is a great time to attack the other mid stacks. 
  • Does villain understand ICM? How strong is your opponent, will he be cautious in some situations knowing the financial implications of busting prematurely, or are they the sort of person that will get married to their absolute hand strength? It's tough to use an opponent’s knowledge of ICM as leverage if they don’t have any! If they're a really top player, be careful that you're asserting enough pressure with your plays. The last thing that you want to do is allow them to put you in situations where you have to fold chunks of your stack. Try to ensure that you are putting them to the decision, sometimes this means experimenting with your bet sizing. Another thing, don't ever mention ICM in the chatbox, don't let people know you understand it.
  • Have they been trying to talk the table into agreeing a deal – This is often a telltale sign that the money means a lot to this player.  If they ask for a deal when there are 6 or 7 players left, you can assume that they want to make the 3 and 4 handed stages where a deal becomes much more likely, which means they will probably fold too often
When planning to use principals of ICM as leverage, you basically want to look for any insight into your opponent’s psyche (especially their attitudes towards the financial implications of laddering) to try to identify anything that might lead to increased fold equity. Experiment and pay attention to your own mindset when you go deep. If you notice people trying to exploit you, be prepared to give them a taste of their own medicine, I'll show you how to do this next time.
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Dan O'Callaghan

Primarily an MTT grinder, Dan began playing poker over curry and Kopperberg whilst at university about 4 years ago.   He exists as several aliases but is best know as 'danshreddies'. His biggest score came earlier in the year when he finished 2nd at PKR Live fo ... Read More

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