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Poker Tournaments & SNG's

Poker Poirot - Reading Your Situation in MTTs

7,032 Views on 18/11/14
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If there is one thing a tournament player can't dedicate enough time to, it has to be learning how to adapt to subtle variations pokerimage in stacks and table dynamics. Unlike in a cash game, where everyone is usually over 100bbs deep (meaning players' ranges tend be more rigid as a by-product), the fluctuation in stack size during a tournament adds a whole new variable to the mix

As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, I have to point out that unless some super-genius somewhere is keeping a pretty huge secret from the poker world, there's no super formula you can use to work out the best play to make in every spot. Yes, we can use concepts such as Nash Equilibrium and ICM to make educated guesses, but Iā€™m afraid there are simply too many combinations of stack and seating set-up arrangements to learn them all, especially since each scenario will change entirely with different opponents.

The list of variables in tournament poker is immeasurable: Is someone sat out? Does someone use the auto select option online, or hold their cards in a certain way when they are folding live? Do they only raise from 15bbs with Kigs or Aces? Maybe they will call a shove with the same range they will re-shove, or perhaps they literally fist pump whenever they get dealt Pocket Aces (my little brother actually does this!). Whatever it is, any extra information you can extract from a situation shouldn't be ignored, and the less obvious the information is, the less likely it is to be intentional deception, and therefore the more reliable it's likely to be.

The sheer number of irregularities that influence a hand of tournament poker mean that we can often find ourselves in some unusual situations both pre and post flop, especially when we factor in the randomness of some people's decisions. By their nature, tournaments are constantly changing, and this abundance of different situations can make them tough to conquer; it's why understanding stack size is one of the biggest adjustments that cash game players struggle with when they wade into the unfamiliar waters of tournaments. Tournament poker is evolving - the edges are thinner -  and in order to maximize our profits we need to be able to think on our feet and adjust to the situations we find ourselves in, just as Darwin observed:


ā€œIt is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.ā€


Fortunately, the more subtle variables are often overlooked by weaker players which means that they're a bit of a blessing in disguise. They bring a lot of the advanced skill to tournament poker and people's failure to acknowledge them means they underestimate the complexity of many scenarios. Illusions of the simplicity of some spots lull weaker players into a false sense of security which often leads to an overestimation of their skill level. This naivety is great for us as thinking players because it means that our opponents will not only be making more mistakes than us, but will be less likely to realize it, and as a consequence, less likely to improve.


You've probably heard it said a thousand times that poker is a game of incomplete information, and it undeniably is, but I like to think there's an element of detective work within it. Remember your childhood and the tales you heard  of detectives such as Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, or even Inspector Gadget and how they digested as much information as possible before committing themselves to a decision - Often it was the most microscopic of finds that caught the criminal. Obviously we can't ignore the straightforward stuff, but if we take extra time to uncover, absorb, and arm ourselves with the most inconspicuous of information, we will be able to make better, more complete, and ultimately more, more profitable decisions than our opponents. We need to stay one step ahead of the competition, and to ensure you do, take extra time wherever you can too fully comprehend your situation and find ways to adapt to it, who knows you may find something subtle that could make you a fortune.


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 ... Read More


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