Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Most Important Concept in Tournament Poker

The Most Important Concept in Tournament Poker.

Kara Scott at the 2008 World Series of PokerImage via Wikipedia

One popular tournament poker concept is that you have to play to survive in order to give yourself a chance to win.

That notion is much like is like being reminded that you have to breathe in order to stay alive. This is sage advice?

I think the most important concept in tournament poker is the following:

Tournament poker is about winning, not surviving.

When you play in a cash game (where real money is bet on every hand), you can always buy in for more chips. The objective of a cash game is simple: you want to leave the game with more money than when you started.

Tournament poker is different.

The winner of a tournament is the one who wins all of the chips in play. The reward for winning an event is a significant percentage of the total prize pool, which at the World Series of Poker, can be substantial.

For some perspective, in last year's $1,000 buy-in event at the WSOP, there were 6,012 entrants and a prize pool of over $5 million. The event paid 620 players. Guess what the difference was in finishing 1st and 620th?

Over $768,000!

Guess what the difference was in finishing 1st and 10th?

Over $691,000!

You can play to survive, cash in and win a few dollars. Or, you can play to win and take home $771,338—which is what Steve Sung won in this event.

Playing to win and not just survive, results in a different approach to the game. It means that you have to adjust your thinking and strategies to tournament payouts.

You can’t sit back and wait for premium hands. You have to accumulate chips throughout an event, because if you don’t act, the blinds and antes will slowly, but surely, result in your chips bleeding out.

I posted this article a few days ago on the SF Bay Area Bleecher Report.


temalyen said...

I definitely agree. I have a friend whose tournament rules are that he only plays overcard pairs of QQ or higher and AK. Sometimes he'll get lucky and get a hand he'll play early on and double up, but mostly he's left wondering why he hardly ever cashes. He uses the typical poor player excuse of having "bad luck" and insisting his play is perfect. I've repeatedly encouraged him to play a wider variety of hands in tournaments and to try to steal the blinds once in a while, but he thinks that is "sloppy play" and won't change his strategy. I guess some people just don't want to learn.

Mitchell Cogert said...

That is a mistake on so many levels.

First, he should figure out how many starting hands he is playing compared to the total hands possible. He may discover he is cutting out over 95% of the total hands possible.
Second, he should chart how often he wins compared to his investment.
Third, he should watch the players who are winning and learn from them.
Fourth, he needs to understand basic concepts like position, table image, etc.
Fifth, if he plays this tight, when he raises, all his observant opponents will just fold.

That's just a start.

But, really, I guess if he doesn't mind providing a recurring donation to the prize pool, he should stick to his game plan. You can only do so much for your friend.

What's Your Poker IQ?