there is one thing a tournament player can't dedicate enough time to, it has to
be learning how to adapt to subtle variations 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 I’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:
“It 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.”
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.
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.