If you don’t have $10,000 to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event, the highlight of your poker summer may very well be a small buy-in, huge field event like the Colossus, the Millionaire Maker, or the Monster Stack.
After deep runs in both the Millionaire Maker and Colossus, 888 ambassador Sofia Lovgren is the perfect person to get tips and tricks from in order to improve your chances at a deep run in a tournament with a massive field. Though her background is in cash games, her results in these type of tournaments speak for themselves in terms of her MTT results.
One thing that helped Lovgren prepare for those big live events were online tournaments, though there were some adjustments transitioning from one to the other.
“The biggest difference with the live event is that you can get an overwhelming feeling when you see these huge field of players in the room. You can be tempted to play extremely creatively and try to run over the players in the first levels to have a chance,” Lovgren explains. “Online, it feels totally different in front of your PC, where you have a better overview and can see the players chips stacks, etc.. This could make you less stressed about building a stack and just focus on playing with patience.”
One thing Lovgren made sure to do when playing live this summer was to show up to play without distractions.
“In the Millionaire Maker I was very focused, played my best poker and was running quite well at the same time. That was pretty much it. I also decided to play without bringing my phone or iPad. That could often be a distraction and you risk missing information at your table. I instead focused on the game and the other players.”
Thanks to that focus, Lovgren finished in 12th place out of a field of 7,190 entries. It is difficult to wrap your head around the field size with so many entries and starting days, which is why Lovgren suggests taking a mental approach to the tournament that focuses on baby steps rather than the bracelet.
“Just remind yourself that these events are like a marathon. You really need to be mentally and physically prepared to play for long hours. The starting fields are massive, but you shouldn’t let that stress you. You will see that players will bust faster than you can imagine and without looking at the clock, you’ll suddenly realize that the field size has shrunk very quickly. You just need to focus on the players at your table, your own stack, and the blinds. As long as you have a playable stack, don’t worry about the rest. “
Lovgren didn’t have to worry too much about playing a short stack, as she spent portions of the Millionaire Maker as chip leader. For her, these “donkaments” don’t differ much from your standard $1,000 and $1,500 No Limit Hold’em fields, but they are, on the whole, a little softer, which means more opportunities in the early goings.
“It’s, of course, easier to build a big stack early in these tournaments with many recreational players,” she explains. “I try to exploit their mistakes before they bust and then, when I have a big stack, I open up my game even more and play many more flops in position. Then later, when I find spots where I can get a big double up, I go for it rather than folding in order to have a chance for the top positions.”
The strategy of seeing flops stems from her cash background and served her well. She recounts one of the pivotal hands in her run which involved an aggressive defense of her big blind:
“One final hand in the end of Day 2 in Millionaire Maker where I got a big double-up. I had been playing aggressively building my stack all day. The very last hand of Day 2, I saw K-5 offsuit in my big blind. The button open raised and I decided to go for a three-bet. He called me and we saw a K-10s-8s flop. I continuation bet and he pushed all-in. With all those draws out, I called. I held vs a flush draw and got a huge double-up the very last hand of the day. After this, I was one of the big stacks in the tournament with 300 players left. “
Some may be intimidated by a marginal hand like K-5, but as Lovgren points out, top pair on a draw-heavy board is an opportunity and, in this instance, she took advantage of it, knowing if it went her way she was in a position to make a run at the final table, not just an in-the-money finish.
Knowing her post-flop play was one of her strengths, Lovgren set herself up to succeed in an event many think is a gamble and akin to the lottery, what with the massive field and shorter levels. She came in with a game plan though, focused on identifying weak spots at the table, building her stack early, and amassing enough chips to be able to find spots deeper in the event where she not only saw an opportunity, but had the confidence to capitalize on it.
Next time someone tries to tell you these low buy-in tournaments are not about skill, remember Lovgren’s success and remind yourself that, yes, you will have to gamble in some spots, but with focused attention and selective aggression, you can take advantage of the skill gap from your starting table all the way down to the final one.