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Phat Tuesday

Yesterday was a great day. It was wifey Kim's birthday, which actually felt like the end of the birthday celebration (what with her surprise birthday brunch last week and the birthday trip to Boston this weekend), but spending time with her is always a joy. Before that, I was on the Flop radio show in Florida. I don't know if that will bring in any new readers, but if so, I suggest any new blog readers check out the Tao of Poker (great writer, great tourney recaps), Guinness & Poker (the blogfather of poker bloggers, providing a vast amount of links and info on the poker world), and DoubleAs (higher stakes online player with excellent poker strategy posts). I figure that this is a good starter list, showing three more popular and diverse blogs. I even pimped Pauly (Tao) and DoubleAs on the show. I should have mentioned Iggy (Guinness) too, but maybe next time.

That wasn't all that was great about yesterday. I entered 2 6-person, turbo SNGs on PokerStars late last night when wifey Kim was asleep. I felt the urge to play, but it was already 11:20, so I figured that this would be the quickest tourneys I can play. Lately, the SNGs and tournaments have been good to me, and I'm beginning to think that they are my specialty. It's a very different experience than online cash games. In the cash games, players up and leave randomly. You may finally get a read on a player, and next thing you know, all of your work up and leaves. Also, in tournaments, I believe that the other players are more likely to watch your play and get their own reads, which I tend to use to my advantage in the later rounds.

Basic strategy for me is usually this:

(1) Play very tight, folding anything but solid hands, unless I am in position. Solid = AA through 99, AK, AQ. I'm willing to let 99, AK, AQ, and even TT go if I miss the flop and there are significant over-cards (to the 99, TT, like an Ace). In this way, I usually keep out of tough decisions, like hitting straight or flush draws on the flop, only to lose my stack when I don't hit, or hitting my Ace with A8 and losing a hand to AT or even A2 when my opponent hits a disguised 2-pair. If I get one of those solid hands, I'll lead out with a strong raise and continue raising or re-raising strong (especially with AA, KK, and QQ). More often than not, I'll double up on these hands or at least make a big pot without showing down. Sometimes, I'll just win the blinds, but this is better than losing.

(2) At any point, if I get below 10x the big blind (my Rule of 10), I either fold or push all-in. If I'm in the small blind, I'll still fold. I don't want to waste any of my leverage, which I will use to push players out of hands with my all-ins. Even if I get a monster, I'm more interested in winning the blinds. The key is survival. If you have 7x the big blind and have AA, don't try to bet small and get callers. You'd usually rather win those big and small blinds. You'd be increasing your stack by over 20%, and, more importantly, the next time the blinds come around, you've already earned your 'fee'. If you can steal one pot like this per orbit, you'll never lose a single chip to the blinds. In earlier rounds, still remember to keep your hand selection tight if you are in the Rule of 10. If may seem like your AT looks good, but if you have less than 10x the big blind and it's a low level with low blinds, someone will call you with a low pocket pair or AJ. There is always the fear of being called by Aces, but that is part of the game you can't control, whether you hold AT or QQ.

(3) Once I get to 50/100 (and to a lesser extent, 25/50), I generally perk up. Whereas below this, I don't look to steal at all, now I will keep my eye open for prime opportunities. By now, I usually have a tight image, so players think that any raise is a monster. I'll generally wait until I'm in position with a marginal hand like KJ or 66. This way, if they call me, I might still be in good shape. If they re-raise, I'm usually folding. Position is key here, because when the flop comes and its checked to you, put in a modest raise if you don't hit the board. It'll usually win you the hand. Make sure that you don't risk too much on the bluff continuation bet though (usually a little over 1/2 to 3/4 of the pot), because you don't want to trap yourself and lose a large chunk. You are trying to win the hand on a discount. If you are called, shut down and check it down. Otherwise, continue playing your big pairs aggressively. If the field has thinned significantly (6 or less players left), you can start to ease up on big pair aggression and try to extract more chips. Keep an eye out for loose players and push hard against them specifically.

(4) Eventually, you are either the chipleader or in chip trouble. The Rule of 10 is crucial at this phase if you reach 100/200 blinds and you don't have a big stack. Push or fold, plain and simple. Consider pushing with any pair or Ace (if you are in the Rule of 10). At this level, those blinds will be a godsend. If there are antes as well as blinds, then definitely follow this general rule on pushing. You need to keep afloat or double up, so that is the general strategy. All of your all-ins may confuse some players too, so look for streaks of cards. For instance, you push with AT and win the hand. You then push the next hand with 66 and win the hand. Then you get KJ and push, and you'll be surprised how many players will call with K9 (or they'll call your 44 with A2). They think you are bullshitting, and you sort of are, but not bullshitting as much as they think you are.

(5) If you are chipleader by this level, start to steal away with minimum raises or 2x the big blind raises. Shortstacked players will get out of your way, and most of the mid-stacks will too. Again, have some kind of hand, like an Ace high or low pocket pair. Even two suited cards will do. Continuation bet more often than not unless the flop is completely a nightmare. Here, you are essentially throwing around the weight of your stack and your seemingly tight play. If you are very high-stacked, you can make some questionable calls to other people's all ins (especially if they are shortstacked). You may go in with the worst of it, like A9 to 55, but you have to give yourself a chance to knock these guys out, and your massive stack should keep you afloat long enough to do it.

(6) Congratulations, you are in the money!

I've got to go, but I plan on discussing the rest of my SNG formula at a later time. Have fun!

posted by Jordan @ 8:33 AM,

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