See Where You Rank in Virginia

  1. I was listening to one of the nightly poker shows from the Five Diamond Classic, featuring Paul Darden and Mike Matusow. Matusow was talking about a lot of the top players, including several of the players left in the tournament going to the final table. He labeled a bunch of strong players, such as Patrik Antonius and J.J. Liue (sp, w/e), as "chip accumulators who never slow down". However, when speaking about the very best players, Matusow praised their ability to switch gears, citing a tournament in which Phil Ivey practically played no hands for two and a half hours (wish that was possible online!).

    I have no experience in live tournaments, but it seems like there are more factors influencing the speed of your play than online. In an online MTT, I am concerned with things like the stage of the tournament, the players at my table, the average stack, and my chip stack. In a live tournament, it seems as though the "flow" of the table, your image, and your personal play preferences play a much bigger role in determining how aggresive or conservative you play . It is rare in an average online tournament to be stuck at a table after the first couple hours for more than 30 minutes. It seems as though one has a lot less flexibility in choosing an optimal play style online.

    I was set off to write this post when I read an earlier thread in which someone pointed at several former MTG players, including myself, who have become successful poker players.

    "He's a Magic player. They are some of the most insanely over aggressive players you will ever see. Think about it. Tsoprano, Actionjeff, Zeejustin, Brattfavre. All hyper aggressive players. Must be something about Magic that instills this agressive mentality."

    I found this to be kind of funny because, I consider a few of those players to be some of the tightest players around! Having watched many top players and read many strategy related posts, I am confident that I am a much more conservative player in certain situations and stages of tournaments than the vast majority of the online player base.

    When I asked some regulars in the big daily MTTs about their opinions on the play styles of several big winners, the responses for a given player ranged from "very solid player, don't get involved in a big preflop pot with him" to " super aggresive madman".

    It seems to me that this disagreement stems from the poor structure of most online tournaments. In live play, there are plenty of well-known, winning players who pretty much play a tight, solid game all of the time and are sucessful. In most online MTTs (tourneys like the Pokerroom Grand, WCOOP, and other deep-stack style tourneys exempt), the players who don't adapt, and speed up to the point where the casual observer would percieve them as being hyper aggresive and even a maniac, seem to end up on what Shaniac affectionately termed "Mtt welfare".

    Basically, I am postulating that the inflexible, fast paced structure of the daily MTTs results in the winning players changing up their play in a similar fashion late in the tourney, regardless of their independent approaches and style at earlier points.

    I've typed enough. What do you guys think?

    i'm gonna sleep now yawn
  2. I'll give a more detailed reply later as I'm going to bed but Jeff I agree with what you're saying and I'll leave it at that for now.
  3. i agree with ur assesment and online tournies structure leaving less play ability. this only really compares to major live events though. most daily live tournaments in fact have even less playability then ur daily online tournament. i actually like most online tournies better for structure as opposed to me goin to A.C. n playin any daily tourny.
  4. First off I have to ride your jock some and say that I think your posts are on average some of the best on pocketfives. You get alot of shit but in my opinion your analysis of hands and thoughts on poker are always on point and offer perspective and insight that nobody else has. You're clearly a ridiculously smart guy and I have alot of respect for you even though you can be an arrogant mofo ;-)...

    I'm not completely sure if I'm responding correctly to your question but I think that its pretty clear that you almost have to be hyper-aggressive in the late stages of mtts online -- the blinds and the payout structure call for it. However, sometimes you can't be, for instance when u know the big blind will call you with any two or you never get the chance to be first in. I think the great players assess every situation they are in as different rather than playing in a set sort of a way and also play the individuals they are up against more. Regarding situational poker, I loved watching soupie playing the final table bubble of the 45k the other day. He is generally a very tight player (some have argued this but his vpip is way low for the most part and I don't often see him getting it in there with the worst hand often), but at this ft bubble (there were 10 left) he had a huge stack and was raising 90 percent of hands and reraising every raise all in (he had like 4x as much as next biggest stack). It was great watching him put these guys to the test, many of whom I'm sure had never been to that particular final table and really didn't want to have to go all in -- he accumulated nearly a million in chips at that stage...

    I have been working alot on changing speeds at different moments in tournaments and based on situations. For instance, sometimes after accumulating alot of chips I slow down for a bit because there is nothing forcing me to make more chips (this is especially if the blinds are small in relation to stack). Or if I'm at a table with a lot of restealing and reraising I just can't play aggressive. Also, in cash games recently I've been practicing changing gears for certain intervals of time randomly with no real reason behind it (which generally means I'm slowing down because I'm a fairly laggy player by nature -- in position obv). It is amazing how much my good hands have been getting paid off after I've established a reputation as a laggy player -- this is such an old an obv concept I know, but I'm really getting to master it...

    Overall, I believe that no successful tourney player plays 1 specific way. I'm sure some people think I'm ridiculously aggressive, because I have shown down alot of retarded hands. However, my vpip is usually pretty damn low and most of my aggressive plays have logic behind them that are situational, positional and related to the betting patterns of the player im up against. I don't think any specific way of playing is correct as long as you make the right move at the time and have the best hand when all of the money goes in the middle.

    I think I went way off topic, but I've been playing live poker for 12 hours and am exhausted as hell... As far as live deep stacked tourneys go, I think stealing is essential but not necessarily stealing out of control. Just steals here and there and the occasional big bluff. Recently I've been playing in some deepstacked tourneys and have tried to play very tight and have ended up dieing out slowly. So, in my opinion even when you have alot of big blinds and slow blind escalation playing rock-like isnt gonna do much for you unless you are hit with the deck. Personally, I still think 80-90 percent of the people that take down the wsop and wpt events are pretty damn aggressive and capable of making big moves. I can't think of one major successful tournament player who sits and waits for good cards. I also can't think of one who is just an out of control donk either. I cant summarize my post cause ive gone on a random tangent. I guess, basically, controlled aggression = good stuff in every form of tourney play but in online events playing like a complete psycho once the blinds get big enough and Ms are low is even more rewarded while being an all in donk with 10-20 Ms obviously isn't smart....

    Probably didnt say anything u didnt already know but felt like rambling...

    apestyles is an instructor at PocketFives Training . To get more of his advice and to watch his training videos, click here.

  5. well written and informative jeff,if my game evr rises to your level so as not too feel to inferior id like to meet you.
  6. MORE...plz
  7. I certainly dont have the experience that guys like ActionJeff or ApeStyles have when it comes to MTT play since I have only been playing tourneys for about 3 months, however my experience is that the first hour is obviously a time to just sit back and try to double or triple your stack and avoiding coin flip situations. I try to avoid calling raises out of position unless I have a moster. The 2nd hour (basing this on 180 SnGs on Stars) I try to make more moves and steal blinds, set up guys more and basically just work to get to 10K chips prior to the 2nd break. After the 2nd break you are usually down to the last 10-15% of players and the blinds and antees are such that you dont see a lot of post-flop play. Blind steals and re-steals are highly prevelant and sometimes it seems everyon is taking their turn stealing blinds. I agree that the online structure forces you to really dial it up later in trounaments unless you have a substantial stack which ofcourse allows you to make your own decisions on how you would prefer to play. There are deepstack tournaments, but they have the negative effect of taking forever although they do allow you to be more paitient. Basically there are pluses and minuses aither way, but since its all poker we love it...
  8. Hey Jeff, clearly and well-written and thought out post. As for your thoughts on magic players, I do think we tend to be tighter, and have better situational awareness than the standard player. Which is why sometimes we are labeled with the hyper aggressive (in situations that call for it clearly but not everyone realizes that...) Anyways, you're right about online structure... by the end of almost all tournaments, the stacks compared to the blinds are small so the options go down. I think generally in most tournaments with high M's it makes more sense to play tight early in online games... Because you're jumping around from table to table/ and people are paying less attention, playing aggressively early (with a high M) makes the most sense to establish an image where you can get paid off if you hit and/or actually get a big hand. Mid tournament really is where the style choice comes into play most. When you have like 5000 chips and blinds are 100/200 you really have choices to make. What's my image, what players can fold their blinds etc... Very deep in a tournament, when M's go below 10 for almost everyone you're forced to look at the same things, but really are forced into making moves even when the situation isn't great simply out of neccessity.

    And on the +EV situations... no you're not off base whatsoever. Early in a tournament (provided we're not talking about a turbo) you should be trying to take any +EV you can. Now, you shouldn't be trying to take a 50-50, or shouldn't be getting in with the two overs vs. a pair, but you should be happy to take +EV.... in any tournament you need to take risks, and you want to be getting value out of risks you take. For instance, this may not be the best example, but you shouldn't fold J's against a crazy opponent in a rebuy pre-flop who's moving in and you've seen them go in with both ducks, queens, KT etc...
  9. "first hour is obviously a time to just sit back and try to double or triple your stack and avoiding coin flip situations." <=== it seems quotes like these are appearing more frequently on these boards lately.

    What does "avoiding coin flip situations" mean?

    Does that mean you are actively attempting to avoid coin flip situations even if you have +EV (considering the pot size of course) against your opponents range? Shouldn't you be seeking out these +EV situations rather than avoiding them? It's difficult to get every chip in a tournament (that's everyone's goal right?) if you intentionally pass on +EV situations.

    Jeff, am I totally off base here?
  10. Very good post Jeff as well as the replies. I would love to see more of these strategic musings on P5's. I agree with everything that you said but I would also add that I think it is the aggression of online players that breeds even more aggression (think of how often you have seen a table with a few maniacs quickly turn into a table full of maniacs). I also feel that field size seems to have an impact on how aggressive players are early in an MTT irrespective of blind structures or M ratings. In very large fields I see alot of players taking large risks early trying to 'stay ahead of the blinds'. Do others see this too?

    Another question I wanted to ask in general was whether other people have seen what I would term macro-inflection points in online tournaments but not live ones (or tourneys in general with much more gradual blind increases). There seem to be times in online MTT's (I would argue this is because of uneven or fast structures) where an over-abundance of players have M ratings that force them to gamble. So there will be these 10-20 minutes stretches in tournaments where chip transfer rate increases greatly until the field has been narrowed and M ratings have stabilized. Play then resumes normally until the next macro-inflection point maybe 30-40 minutes from then. Have other people noticed this besides me? If this is true what types of strategies can be used during these macro-inflection points as well as the lulls in between where people are playing much less aggressively?

    - Ike
  11. I'm not Jeff but I think the thought is that giving up a +EV can be +EV if you foresee a greater +EV play later in the tournament. Let me give you an example. Let's say the very first hand of the tournament you hold KQ and your opponent has 1010. The flop comes 962. There is already 1000 in the pot and your opponent pushes all in forcing you to call your remaining 2000 chips. You now have to risk 2000 chips to win 3000 chips but if you lose you are out of the tournament. Although you are slight favorite to win the hand here what if you fold and save your 2000 chips for a play later where you can get AA all-in vs 66. Was folding correct earlier? Well we can run the math to find out.

    In the first hand you are a 54/46 favorite. So this means that 54% of the time you will end up with 5000 chips and 46% of the time you will be out. So this means that the EV of this play is .54 * 5000 = 2700 chips.

    If you fold you will later be a 80/20 favorite. This means that 80% of the time you will end up with 4000 chips and 20% of the time you will be out. So this means that the EV of this play is .80 * 4000 = 3200 chips.

    As you can see in this scenario passing on the slight edge earlier to take a larger edge later is +EV. Hope this helps.

    - Ike
  12. Not taking a stance on whether or not to pass up a coin flip BUT:

    one important factor you are forgetting in the above analysis, ike, is that the 54% of the time you win the initial virtual coin flip, you will still be able to take advantage of the later 80/20 matchup which will make the intitial coin flip call more +EV than not given only the facts presented.....

  13. I think your reasoning for making the laydown you detail is extremely flawed. Here are two glaring issues:
    (1) Regardless of your skill level, there is no valid way you can assume you will get an 80/20 somewhere down the line.
    (2) You are completely neglecting the additional tournament equity you get when you call w/ your 54/46 shot and double up early in a tournament. By doubling up early, you are significantly increasing (even doubling) your chances of winning the tournament.

    Personally, I hate calling off all my chips on a draw but I'll do it in a heartbeat if it's an obvious +EV move.

    I think the real trick is making sure you stick your chips in first in marginal situations,,,,you do this to "create" +EV in what people like to call "coin flip situations"....some tournament players just don't understand the long term importance of fold equity in marginal spots.
  14. It's not my reasoning. I was trying to explain the reasoning behind not taking slight +EV plays early in an MTT. Both Sklansky and Harrington describe this in much clearer detail in their tournament strategy books. In response:

    1) You are absolutely correct. However if you are a better player then your opponents you might be able to assume that you will have one or more higher +EV plays later. Right?
    2) And you are totally forgetting that in my example close to 1/2 the time you are guaranteed to win nothing in the MTT because you lost your last chip. Chips held are much more important then chips won.
  15. So just to play Devil's Advocate.

    First hand of the tourney. You have 99 and your opponent has AK. He pushes all-in to your 4x BB raise. You are 100% he has AK so you have a slight edge. Obviously for this hand calling here is +EV and if this is a cash game you should never pass this up. However are you arguing that it results in the greatest +EV in the long-run of a MTT? I would argue emphatically no and I think you are arguing the opposite. Is this true?

    - Ike
  16. (1) Even if you consider yourself more skilled than your entire table (or even the entire tournament), you MAY have an opportunity for a higher +EV situation, only if the cards and your opponents allow such a situation to arise.
    (2) No, I am perfectly aware that you will be out of the tourney nearly 50% of the time.

    Bottom line: I think you are giving up a significant long-term edge to a good player if you fold your hand in +EV situations.

    Do you think ActionJeff achieves his spectacular mtt ROI by passing up his edges? I doubt it....but I hope he chimes in with his opinion so I can know for sure.
  17. If anyone were to give up slight edges it would be one of the better players in the tournament. If you are a below average player in the tournament I would definitely recommend taking any edge always!!! Just so you don't think I'm saying something that I'm not.

    - Ike
  18. If I absolutely know my opponent holds AK, I would call in this spot obv.

    Do you really believe your chances of doubling up in a MTT are better than 55%? While I'm sure most players wouldn't hesitate to say 'yes', I suspect a long term statistical analysis would yield an answer of 'no'. So to answer your question, yes, I believe you increase your long term equity in a tournament by calling in this spot.

    As I said before, I don't care about getting in the money, or even final tabling, I want one of the top 3 spots (namely 1st). How can I expect to consistently achieve this when I give other players free chips by folding when I'm ahead?
  19. imo, there is a point in almost every tourney, where stack preservation is just as or more important than stack accumulation. if you are uncappable of slowing down, then i just think that too many situations will arise late in a tournament that will cost you your stack, either through one or a series of hands.
  20. I think the most interesting parts of a tournament is when your M rating gets down to about 5-8 maybe in the point of a tourney where the payoff bubble is nearing. This is a time where real strategy and guile can come into play. We all see that this is where the better players or very good players use aggressiveness and also the advantage of being first into a pot with a marginal or possibly junk hand or a small raise when you have a monster to sucker bad players who dont recognize the obvious set-up. Its great to have a huge stack and lean on people, but to me its a lot of fun when people think you are gonna get busted out quick, but we know exactly what must be done when the Red Zone approaches...
  21. I fold this all day and Sunday. I know I'm better then at least 70% of the competition in any given tournament and thus do not need to risk a small edge this early in the tournament. Just MHO.

    - Ike
  22. The issue with your example is that it assumes you will be an 80/20 later in the tourney. There is no guarentee that you will be able to find such a favorable situation. Unless you are at a really crazy table full of nut jobs, you cannot really play your tournament with the expectation that a situation much better than 55/45 will come up.
  23. nice post...
  24. Will have to think more on that... I'm guessing that is right after or right before blind increases?

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