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Poker Tournaments & SNG's

Poker Tournament Life - Myth and Reality

10,428 Views on 5/1/15
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Unless pokerimage we're prepared to go through some dramatic 21st century surgery, most of us won't ever be bare-handed killing machines, we simply don't have the features: no venomous fangs, talons, electric tentacles, horns, razor-sharp teeth or any one of a number of super cool and devastating X-Men powers.

Instead, we are designed to survive and as humans and our bodies have evolved perfectly to protect us from harm. Pain receptors tell us to move our hands away when something is hot, we hold our breath when we are submerged, we close our eyes if something gets too close, and we cover our ears if something gets too loud.

We are also the best endurance runners on the planet which means we are essentially the best at running away from danger! This instinct for survival is innate and even though we probably wouldn’t live very long without it, there's little room for it in a fearless poker game.

One of the key things that envelopes an MTT is a notion of 'preserving your tournament life' and you will often see bad players make awful plays because they simply didn't want to go broke. As students of poker, most of us, after reading articles such as this, as well as books and forums, and maybe even after watching some videos, will come across spots where we know exactly what we should be doing, but may chose to wimp out instead. This is almost always down to this instinct of self preservation getting the better of us and it affects almost everyone to some degree. 

As anyone who’s tried hula- hooping will know, some things are easier said than done, but as tournament players, it's vital that we try to minimise the impact this preoccupation has on our decisions. This fear is particularly prevalent in live tournaments and in situations where going broke would be particularly painful, such as at the end of days, on big final tables, or on the bubble of pretty much any MTT. Generally speaking though, most people will just hate to go broke full stop. 

Instead of yielding to this fear of loss, embrace it. Realise that it can be used as another form of leverage and find ways to channel it so that you can use to manipulate your opponents. Remember how you feel in certain spots and look to inflict this discomfort on other people elsewhere. Identify opponents that you think are overly concerned about going broke and make these people your targets.

Now I'm not saying go crazy and don't consider survival in your next tournament, but just to remember that you need to make sure you don't associate the same notions of finality between your tournament death and your literal death and instead try to manipulate those that do. Push people as far as they will let you. If they fold to too many 3bets, keep doing it.

Don't stop just because you think they will play back at you, cross that bridge when you come to it. Trust me, most of the time people's fear that you might have the goods will keep weaker players honest!

If you need any encouragement, remember James Arthur Baldwin's words: 

“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” 

Understand that being fearless makes you a force to be reckoned with. Nobody wants to poke a lion in the eye, and if your opponents know you have no fear of losing, they will fear your fearlessness and you will get away with far more. How many times have you refrained from making a light 4bet because you knew the guy was capable of piling a 5bet bluff in your face? Embrace people's fear, and punish them for it.


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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