Jun 27 2010

Being the Big Stack Bully in Tournaments

written by: John under Poker Strategy Comments: Comments Off

One of the most effective way to gain control in a multi-table tournament is to shove your opponents around. In cash games, the ability to manipulate someone is usually quite limited. This is why most cash games have a maximum buy in. If players could buy in for $200,000 at a 5/10 game, they could play wild and reckless and still bust a lot of the players who are working with $1,000 stacks.

Tournaments are completely different in this aspect, because even though everyone starts with the same amount of chips, there are typically great disparities in chip counts as the event progresses. If you can get some early double ups, or even steadily build your stack, you are going to have a lot more chips than the majority of your opponents. These chips can then be used as a weapon. If players are raising a lot, make some looser calls, or looser re-raises, and try to take down pots with pure force. Now, there is a thin line between reckless and aggressive, so never play wildly if it is unlikely to be profitable. This is the biggest problem for most deepstacked tournament players, knowing how to properly use a big stack to their advantage.

Giving Up and Playing Smart

There is never a time where it makes sense to stop thinking. Don’t play pots just to play pots because you can afford it, if you do this for too long you are going to go broke, as much is inevitable. Nevertheless, a lot of poker players are action junkies and will try to see as many flops, turns, and rivers as they can. In fact, many tournament players who build an early stack have done so as a result of some major luckboxing. Getting lucky and winning monster pots is not a sustainable, long-term, winning strategy. Eventually you need to start actually outplaying your opponents.

Just because you have a big stack, it doesn’t mean that you should start making light calls. Your hand’s relative strength is not going to change because you have more chips. Sure, you can “afford” to take some hits to your stack, but what good is that? Sometimes it can be beneficial to go to showdown with a weaker hand. Your opponents might change their perception of you, and it makes it easier to exploit your image. If you do this repeatedly, however, you are just going to run out of chips. Your goal should be to add chips by making plays with the most positive expectation. You can make terrible plays with some big potential, but it isn’t going to get you very far.

Have you ever seen a tournament player commit all of their chips on a straight draw with just one card to come? You were probably considering how poor of a play it was, and you’d be correct, but this player just couldn’t resist the opportunity to get lucky and win a big pot. It all boils down to concentration in tournaments, as it does in every form of poker. The players who make the fewest mistakes and capitalize the most on their opportunities are also the biggest winners, and it isn’t a coincidence.

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