Monday, January 19, 2009

Skill #2: Have A Plan Before You Enter A Poker Tournament

Here is the second skill you need to win a poker tournament and have a shot at a WSOP bracelet:

Entering a tournament poker event with a plan--when will you play tight, loose, aggressive, solid, etc

You always need to plan ahead in a poker event.

Before the event begins, you need a plan based on the following:
a. How fast is the tournament given the buy-ins, the chips, the time for each round, the number of players?

As a general rule, if the event is one time rebuy event I like to play tighter during the rebuy period. I'd rather be seen as a tight player by my opponents so I can steal later on after the rebuy period ends.

I won't even enter tournaments where the structure makes an event a total luck-fest. A few years ago, I went to a low buy-in event at Harrahs and it was silly. By the third round, you are forced to move all-in.

I think The Venetian has a great tournament in Vegas with their deep stack events. Most poker players love deep stack events since it allows for more play and a better opportunity to outplay your opponent with skill.

Even the WSOP events don't have a structure that is as favorable as The Venetian. Of course, they have a good reason for that decision--they have to weed out thousands of players!

b. Do you have the time needed to commit 100% of your concentration to the event?

Have you ever entered a tournament and realized that it is taking longer than you thought? It has happened to me online more than once. One time I just started playing stupid, moving all-in in every hand. I wanted out, and finally, a player took me out.

Another time, I entered a Full Tilt tournament around 9pm and I ended up playing till 3am....and I didn't even win! I shouldn't have entered the event because at the end I was exhausted and the next day I was not at my best.

c. Are you rested so you can make the right decisions?

When I'm tired, I don't play as well as when I am rested. In the Bay Area I have had to skip a lot of tournaments because they take place too early in the am. I don't believe any tournament should begin before noon. This is poker, for heavens sake.

d. Are there other things on your mind that will distract your attention and affect your play?

This is another reason not to enter an event. Focus. Thirty minutes before I entered a WSOP event, I got a call from my family with stressful news. Needless to say, I didn't last the first hour.

One time at the WSOP, there was a player at the table when he got a call, and found out his wife went into labor. The funny thing is that he stayed and played the next few hands until someone called his repeated all-in bets, and knocked him out.

e. Are you going to go into the event limping with a lot of hands, trying to see flops cheap or are you only going to play ultra-conservative, only entering the pots with premium cards?

In Every Hand Revealed, Gus Hansen writes that he prefers to limp with a lot of hands in a major tournament with a slow progression of blinds. But he doesn't think there is a right approach.

My suggestion is that you should try both styles of play and see which one not only makes you feel more comfortable but which one gives you better results.

Next: Embracing the risk in the game and realizing that you can't beat the luck inherent in poker

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