Archive for June, 2012

Multi-Table Tournament Strategy Thoughts

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Poker is constantly evolving. What is a good strategy today might be easily exploited a year from now. You’ve got to constantly stay ahead of the curve with new and creative strategic approaches to out-think your opponents at the table.

Here are a few multi-table tournament strategy concepts that have been on my mind lately. With the WSOP Main Event right around the corner, I’m almost reluctant to give some of these thoughts away. Let’s hope my opponents aren’t savvy enough to Google my name and find this post. Or maybe I already know they will be and am using this post as deep-cover misinformation. Bwuhahaha!

Three-Betting Dark Should Happen

Something I’ve been working on lately is identifying spots where it appears profitable to three-bet dark without taking into consideration my hand. It’s a really challenging adjustment to make because typically your cards are the first thing you notice about any poker hand and all of your subsequent decisions are built on that information.

The key is to identify spots featuring certain favorable elements where your two cards don’t matter. So many hands in MTTs are taken down preflop that oftentimes your hand doesn’t really matter that much. It’s more about the situation.

Here are some favorable circumstances for three-betting preflop regardless of your two cards:

  • player who opened pot has been raising liberally
  • you have position on that player
  • original raiser, you, and everyone left to act behind you all have at least 25 big blinds or more
  • there are no circumstances which make it seem obvious you might be three-betting light

I want to elaborate on that final point a bit. In order for this strategy to be effective, your opponents need reasonable cause to believe you might have a real hand. It becomes harder for them to reach that conclusion if a.) you’ve been three-betting your ass off and/or b.) you are doing it from the button; players have a tendency to grant less respect to button three-bets so you need to be a little cautious about abusing this play from the button. (Flipside: definitely three-bet from the button when you have a good hand since it won’t get much respect, smooth-calling would be a disaster in that scenario).

Implementing this play in a timely manner can help you collect enough chips to keep your head above the water and survive deeper into the tournament before reaching the desperation of push-or-fold strategy.

It’s Okay to Raise-Fold Short Stacks

I used to think the idea of raise-folding a stack of 15 big blinds or less was criminal. I’ve gotten to be a lot more patient with these shorter stacks. There can be scenarios where I think it’s okay to raise-fold a short stack.

For example, in early position with a stack of 12 big blinds, any raise you make looks very strong to the rest of your opponents. Most players expect you to shove a stack that size so when you min-raise it looks like you’re trying to trap with Aces. (Flipside: shove when you have the Aces).

Assuming the rest of your table is sane and semi-competent, they should be folding all but their strongest holdings. It’s basically a gamble that none of your opponents were dealt a strong hand. The payoff is picking up a pot that gives you a free orbit on your short stack. If it doesn’t work, your situation isn’t really that much different than it was before (you’re still short and getting desperate).

There are other scenarios where raising a short stack with a willingness to fold can be okay. But I won’t spoil all the secrets just yet. Try to think creatively for yourself about a spot where it might be okay to do this.

Small Blind Sanity

One way in which I used to get exploited big time came from thinking that when it folded to me in the small blind it was time to party. I’ve reached a 180 degree reversal in this philosophy and now tend to think it’s smart to give a lot of walks from the small blind.

Open-raising into the big blind from the small blind is just suicide. Players are so willing to float that raise and punish you in later betting rounds to take the pot away. If you are raising liberally from the small blind, your opponent can profitably call those raises or re-raise you with any two cards. Why would you give your opponents a chance to print money off of you?

(Flipside: when you do have a strong hand from the small blind, punish your opponent with repeated healthy value-bets).

When I do try to play aggressively from the small blind, I like to raise quite a bit larger than normal to make it too expensive on my opponents to get cute and try to take the pot away. Which leads to one final thought…

It Can Be Okay to Overbet

Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a mentality that your bet-sizing must always be really standard. Open the pot to a min-raise, three-bet to about twice the original raise, continuation-bet for about 2/3rds of the pot, etc. However, it’s important to identify spots where following the bet-sizing status quo leaves you open to being exploited.

There are times where it’s more profitable to put more chips into the pot than seems normal. Think about getting paid off on the river. What’s better: betting 1,500 chips into a 3,000 chip pot expecting to be called 50% of the time or shoving 5,500 chips into a 3,000 chip pot expecting to be called 20% of the time? Do the math.

The same principal can be applied to three-betting light. If your opponent min-raises and you want to take the pot away right then and there, which bet size might be more effective: double his original raise or triple his original raise? Against opponents who love to see a lot of flops, sometimes you need to ramp up the bet-sizing to induce a fold. One way to look at it is that you’re packaging some of the chips from your eventual continuation bet into your preflop raise in order to avoid seeing a flop. Betting more preflop can sometimes save the total number of chips you’ll put at risk during the hand.

If you liked this advice, check out some of our free poker strategy videos. Players interested in more insight to improving their game can PM me at “Ozone” on our poker forums; I offer poker coaching at below-market rates.

2012 WSOP First Week Characterized by Controversy

Monday, June 4th, 2012

The 2012 World Series of Poker has gotten off to a rocky start leading some high-profile players like Brian Hastings to conclude they’ll play fewer events at this year’s series.

Despite being its ninth year running the WSOP, the staff at Caesars Entertainment (formerly Harrah’s) have shown multiple instances of incompetence so far this series.

Verbal Declaration Rule Leads to Unprofessional Retweet

In Event #5: $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em, a new rule was announced at the final table: participants must verbally declare all of their action. Daniel Negreanu, who was present at the table before busting in 5th place, more or less refused to acknowledge the rule which was created for the benefit of viewers of WSOP’s live stream of the final table. After Negreanu busted, Caesars officials informed the remaining four players that if they didn’t obey the rule they would receive a one-orbit penalty.

This did not sit well with poker pro Jon Aguiar (‘FatalError’ online) who after enjoying the spoils of his 3rd place finish took to Twitter to express his displeasure about the way Caesars staff handled the final table (read from the bottom up):

In an interview with QuadJacks the following day, Aguiar made several more great points about why the rule should be removed. He also discussed a highly controversial retweet made by Seth Palansky via the WSOP corporate Twitter account.

Palansky has since admitted to using the @WSOP account to retweet someone calling Aguiar a “bitch” for his complaints. The tweet remained up for at least a couple of days but has since been removed. Here is how it appeared:

Palansky apologized for using the @WSOP account to retweet the claim of Aguiar being a “bitch” saying that he should have used his personal account instead. As of yesterday, he was still employed by Caesars.

$1,500 No Limit Re-Entry Debacle

Eleven players were disqualified yesterday from Day 1B of Event #9, $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Re-Entry. The event permitted players who busted out on Day 1A to re-enter on Day 1B. However, due to some confusion on the part of Caesars’ staff, eleven players re-entered on Day 1B after having already busted out that day.

Among them were poker pro Will ‘The Thrill’ Failla who was accused of being a scumbag by some people for having re-entered the tournament. Failla took to Twitter to clear his name:

Several other top pros corroborated Failla’s claim stating that he would have never re-entered the event had he known it was not permitted to do so while others insisted he most definitely knew what he was doing.

Caesars is offering a refund to any player who can verify through Rio’s video surveillance that they were busted out by one of the eleven disqualified players. However, if you lost 99% of your stack to them and busted the remaining 1% to someone else, tough luck.

Once again, the blame in this situation again seems to lie on Caesars management for its mishandling of the re-entry situation.

Rundown of Other Gripes

Poker players have never been short of things to complain about, but many of the grievances aired against Caesars so far at the 2012 WSOP seem to be pretty legitimate. Here’s a quick summary of a few other situations that have caused a stir in the first week of this year’s series:

  • Players being turned away at registration of Event #3: $3,000 Heads-Up NLHE/PLO and then half of the field being awarded a first-round bye but not before waiting around for over an hour to receive news of their fortune.
  • Female participants having a challenging situation during bathroom breaks due to Caesars having converted nearly all nearby women’s restrooms into men’s restrooms.
  • The new ChipTic player tracking software used this year malfunctioning during Event #5 which caused play to remain six- or seven-handed for extended periods of time while officials scrambled to implement an alternative method for monitoring players and breaking tables.
  • Russ Hamilton championship banner re-appearing in the Amazon Room.
  • All-American Dave” facing resistance from Caesars officials when delivering meals via his healthy-food catering service that dozens of poker pros have subscribed to this year.

Amid these problems, Aguiar has channeled the spirit of various world protests to remind Caesars and the poker community who matters most at the World Series of Poker:


To conclude on a lighter note, congrats to friend-of-PokerTips Leif Force for winning his first WSOP bracelet in Event #3: $3,000 Heads-Up NLHE/PLO!