Live Poker Tournament Analysis
A SNG PLAYERS GUIDE TO MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENTS – By Collin Moshman
Live tournament poker – Trying to make sense of poker guides can give you a headache. But reading other people live poker tournament analysis always drops something into your mind that you may not have previously thought of. This is a reasonably complex analysis that I picked up from a magazine written by a player after playing in the wsop main event 2008.
My experience playing the 2008 Main Event at the wsop made me think about a general sit-n-go players best strategy for playing multi-table tournaments. I am going to assume that while you are a very good poker player, you may not have the same level of deep stack post-flop experience as cash and multi-table tournament specialists.
A multi-table tournament has two distinct parts:
(a) Before the antes begin and
(b) after the antes begin.
Before the ante, stacks are deep and picking up the blinds is a relatively small gain. The main reason to play a lot of pots at the stage, then, is if you have a strong advantage over your opponents at post-flop play with deep stacks. You will see many winning, loose-aggressive players smooth-call raises before the flop with suited connectors and small pocket pairs. This loose strategy relies heavily on knowing when marginal hands are good and reading situations when you may win pots because your opponents have missed.
These loose-aggressive layers (LAGs) also have another idea in mind. When a tight player raises, he will often start with or make at the flop a high pair. If the LAG connects very strongly with a speculative hand, he will often get paid handsomely post flop because his tighter opponents have made string second-best hands such as top pair hands and overpairs. These second best hands may seem like they are best, however, and tight players often take them much further than they should after the flop.
When you play a tight-aggressive style early, you must be very careful not to go broke against a LAG willing to play unusual starting hands.
For instance, suppose you raise preflop from first position with aces. The button – who has been playing many hands – makes the call. You bet the flop and he calls. You bet the turn and he raises. Regardless of the board, you will often be behind now with an unimproved overpair. This is because good players will realise that you are tight, and if they cannot beat a good one-pair hand themselves, then it is unlikely that chips in the center at the turn.
The tight-aggressive style is a strong and winning style so long as you understand how your opponents perceive you and how they are trying to exploit you.
Understand these ideas and you will do fine playing tight-aggresively, as I did at the WSOP.
Here is a sample hand from my main event:
With blinds of $150-$300 (no ante), I raised to $750 from middle position with AQ of hearts. Bracelet winner John Esposito called on the button, as did a talented young hyper aggressive player in the small blind. The flop came 8-9-Q.
I had around 10,000 in chips, and I bet 2000 after the small blind checked. Should I now check or bet?
Here was my analysis.
Since I had been playing tight, the other players clearly wanted to connect hard with the board and bust me. What does it mean when both call my flop bet? Clearly it would not surprise either one that my hand is AQ or an overpair since I had raised per flop from middle position and was now making a string bet on the flop. So they must either have a made hand or a strong draw to call my flop bet. But if one of them had a made hand on the flop, they would have probably raised me immediately, figuring that a club, ten or jack on the turn might prevent me from commiting the rest of my chips.
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Based on that, I assumed both were on draws after the flop. Therfore I shoved my remaining 8000 when the blank hit on the turn, and both players folded.
This is the type of anlysis that you should do when deciding whether to fold or continue with your strong hands on the later streets. As long as you stay vigalent in this regard, the tight aggressive style is an excellent one for early MTT play.
However, there is still a very good way to add unpredictably to your game while still sticking mainly to strong starting hands. This is to add some suited connectors to your early position opening range of A-K, A-QS, 10-10+, 4-5s and 5-6s (s= suited) consists mostly of very strong hands, but contains a valuable randomising component.
Post Ante Play
Now to the basics of post-ante play. After the ante, you must play many more hands – it’s as simple as that. The reason for this is that starting pots now much larger. For example, the pot at the 400-800 level starts at 1200 without the ante. But in a nine-handed table with a 100 ante, the starting pot is 2100 – as if someone were giving more than one extra big blind to the winner of the hand.
So add more opening hands when everyone has folded to you in middle and late position to take advantage of the increased gain of winning preflop.
Your default strategy will be to raise preflop, make a continuation bet on the flop, and then continue with the hand those times when you have connected well with the flop. You should vary this approach by checking behind occasionally on the flop, semi-bluffing and other plays that make you less predictable. But this basic strategy is a good one when you are otherwise unsure.
There is also now less danger with strong one pair hands, since the stacks tend to be significantly shallower due to the introduction of the ante.
Here is an example of the change in starting hand requirements.
Suppose you are the hijack (two seats to the right of the button), and everyone has folded to you. Before the ante, you could certainly fold hands such as 2-2 of 7-6 suited. After the ante, these are clear raising hands.
While you would obviously never want to become a short stack, when this does occur, you can play very similarly to how you would in a normal sit-n-go tournament. Just be sure that you account for the ante in your all-in decisions. The way to do this is to treat the big blind as two -thirds of the starting pot. For instance, with big blinds and antes of 400-800-100, the big blind is effectively 1400 (2/3 of 2100). So with a stack of 7000, you would shove with simaler hands to when you have a stack of five BBs in a sit-n-go, rather than nine BB’s or so.
Continue to play tight aggressive early, but be careful not to go broke with one-pair hands when a winning loose-aggressive is willing to put a lot of chips in the pot. Also try to add a randomising element, such as a couple of low suited connectors, to your raising hands. Switch to a more loose aggressive style after the ante, winning a lot of pots by raising preflop and making continuation bets after the flop.
These guidelines are only the beginnings of a complete MTT strategy but they should serve as a solid introduction as approaching multi-table tournaments as a sit-n-go player.