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.