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Poker Tips that Pay: Expert Strategy Guide for Winning No Limit Texas Hold em

Poker Tips that Pay: Expert Strategy Guide for Winning No Limit Texas Hold em

Saturday, December 16, 2017

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Hold em Poker Strategy, Tips & Advice Section

Poker Tournaments are Like Boxing Matches

by Jonathan Gelling


There are many metaphors about the game of poker. It has been described as war: "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." It's been compared to life itself, with women being the rake ("Rounders"). It's even drawn romantic comparisons: "Poker is a lot like sex, everyone thinks they're the best, but most don't have a clue what they're doing" (Dutch Boyd). For my money, at least when it comes to poker tournaments, I think of boxing. Poker is a lot like a boxing match: you dance around early, trade some jabs, and land power punches when your opponents tire in later rounds.

In the early stages, it's all about sizing up your opponents. It's like shadowboxing, conditioning yourself for the real action later. Sure, you're still going to bet a big hand when you have one, but you're not going to tire yourself out in the early going. You're not looking to take any big risks, drop your guard, and suffer an early knockout. While it would be nice to score an early double-up, you're not going to make any big moves to accomplish that goal. You're also not going to risk any large part of your stack without a hand bigger than one pair, unless you hold AAs and push in pre-flop. To summarize: in the early stages of a tournament you're not looking to bluff or to risk too much of your stack without a massive hand. You can speculate a bit in position with truly playable hands, but if you don't hit the flop big you're done with these hands. You should rarely bust out of a tournament early. Some pointers on early game play:

  • Raise small amounts in early position and larger amounts in late position. You want to build a bigger pot in position because it's easier to make money if you're last to act. Conversely, you want to minimize the size of the pot if you're forced to play out of position.

  • Try to play all pairs from any position and most suited connectors in position, even if you have to call a standard raise to do so. Don't fall in love with AK or AQ. You can afford to speculate while the blinds are low, and you're hoping to trap your opponent with a big hand. With deep-stacked play and small blinds, you can profit with these speculative hands in a way you can't later on.

  • Don't push draws aggressively or bet your entire stack with a single pair. You have no idea what your opponents might be holding with blinds this low. People could be calling relatively cheap raises with T2 offsuit and surprise you. Don't build a big pot without a big hand.

As you progress in the tournament, you open up your game. You start stealing blinds from middle and late position. In the very late stages you're either stealing the blinds once per orbit or you're falling behind pretty rapidly. You also need to mix in some re-raises to steal from the loose, aggressive big stacks that will start attacking the table. And there will be at least one loose, aggressive big stack raising way too often to steal the blinds. It's a bit of a risk, but to make the final table you're going to have to push back against these players at some point. Wait for a reasonable hand and a situation where it's likely the loose player is just raising in position, and push back. If you can steal a standard raise along with the blinds you've won three rounds worth of blinds. That buys a lot of breathing room.

Finally, you launch the power jabs. Towards the very end, you're either going big or going home. You don't want to rely on the cards to decide your fate (that's like trusting the whim of the judges' scorecards). You'll need to gamble, and often it'll be all-in pre-flop or fold if you don't have many chips to work with. If you have a fairly large stack, you obviously don't want to risk it all by moving in unnecessarily (the risk/reward is too poor). So, you'll reduce your usual raising to 2-2.5x the bb to allow for cheaper steals and more flexibility. If you raise a smaller amount (than all-in) and get called, you're pushing on the flop with any made hand, solid draw, or if the flop is unlikely to have helped your opponent. You must maintain a big stack at all times or die trying. It's worth taking big risks so you have the chips you need to gamble: without being forced all-in.

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This article extracted from Poker Tips that Pay: Expert Strategy Guide for Winning No Limit Texas Hold em (author Jonathan Gelling, Play to Pay Publishing).
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