I believe that no limit tournament poker has changed for good and if you don't understand what is going on, you shouldn't bother to enter one ever again.
I would describe the key change as Blind Aggression. Players are willing to take on significantly more risk than ever before and make plays without (what appears as) much thought. Some examples...
- Players who will raise and re-raise preflop with inferior holdings.
- Players that will call a pre-flop raise with any two cards.
- Players who make big bets or move all-in on the flop or turn even though they know they are behind.
Why the Shift to Take on More Risk
1. More players.
With more players come a bigger disparity in skill levels. Many inexperienced players need to find a way to counter the advantage of more skilled players. The best way to beat a pro is to move all-in pre-flop. It is high risk, but one that eliminates his opponent's advantage on other streets.
2. Online poker.
While online poker allows players to experiment and quickly gain experience, the key is the ability to multi-table. A player who is in 6 events at the same time, has a goal of building a big stack in one event. This allows for blind aggression since more risk leads to more rewards/bigger stacks. With multi-tabling, you can now place your bets on more games, and if you can build that a big stack in one event, you can even afford to slow down. In tournament poker, always remember that it is better to win one event than to take home small wins in all six.
3. Poker on TV.
To make viewers at home more likely to watch poker, the program needs to be exciting. What is more than watching a bad beat (assuming you are not the player taking one)? When a poker player sees the worst hand winning often enough, it leads to thinking that a) any two cards can win b) they are a better player than the ones on TV.
There our other factors in this shift to take on significantly more risk, such as: blind levels increasing too fast, fewer starting chips, "tells" being of less value online, personally experiencing bad beats as the giver and the taker, and the desire to be noticed.
Go Big or Go Home
When it comes to tournament poker you need to realize that you must go for the win. Be bold.
"Risk is good" is the underlying principle in my tournament poker book with 101 winning moves. But, risk in my book is about knowing how to manage it. The game today has taken the level of risk to a higher level.
My advice: Be bolder than you've ever been before. Someone is giving other poker players bad beats. Why shouldn't it be you?
I recommend you try this new approach to poker, since it may open your eyes to the way the game is being played today. You may decide this style is one you want to adopt as your own.
Or, you can try my new approach.
My New Strategic Approach to Tournament Poker
I have been working on a way to counter this blind aggression. To date, I have used my strategy in five events and won one. My strategy is higher risk than before, but it still provides for a way to manage it.
While I have written about it in my previous post, let me give you a brief overview:
- Early Stage: You play a solid game. Understand implied odds; that is, how you can come in with suited connectors and other drawing hands to win a big pot. Slowplay premium hands. Minimize the A-K losses.
- Middle and Late Stages: Open up your game and be more aggressive. Look to raise or fold, preflop. You can't win by calling. If you get a top hand, even if you are almost 100% sure your opponent has you beat when he moves all-in, you have to go with it when your stack is declining and this hand may be the best you'll see.
- Final Table: Play tight until 4 players have been eliminated.
Please let me know what you think.