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Как превратить $100 в $100,000 за год, играя только МТТ: Андре Коимбра объявил марафон на 2013-й год



Теги: Андре Коимбра, мтснг, покерные марафоны, равновесие Нэша, стратегия, 100K Challenge, Kill Everyone, Team PokerStars Online, acoimbra



(Intro to the Intro)
I am by no means an expert Poker player, but I have had pretty consistent success at the turbo 45 man tournaments (sample size around 500), so I figured I'd do a brain dump. I know, I need another 30,000 tournaments before I know my true ROI yadda yadda yadda, but I think that given the smaller fields of these 45 mans you don't need a bazillion tourneys to have a general idea of whether you're doing OK. Maybe everything I'm suggesting is wildly wrong. Who knows.
---------------------------------

Hardgeus' Guide to PokerStars 45 Man Turbo Tournaments

Introduction/Audience

The audience for this guide is beginning players who are looking for a relatively safe way of learning the game and building a bankroll. It is also a guide specifically aimed at playing against mostly crappy players. I don't suggest you take my advice and try it out at the WSOP.

Why the 45 Man?

I have played several different structures of tournaments on PokerStars, and most of them left me feeling dirty in the morning. The 9 man Sit 'n Gos just don't seem to have enough payout for their variance. I didn't feel like I was crushing them, and I just had a slow slow upward grind. If I lost 4 or 5 in a row, I had a long grind to make back the money from those losses.

The larger tournaments, from 180 man up, were just too depressing. I couldn't stand sitting there for hours at a time, only to bust out on the bubble, or with a lame booby-prize of a mincash. Not only that, I could easily expect to lose 10 or 15 of those in a row before getting any sort of cash. No thanks.

The 45 man is the porridge that Goldilocks ate. The variance is not really markedly higher than the 9 man, and the payout is much more respectable. And while you don't get the big sexy payday of a 180 man, you can expect to get 2 or 3 first-place finishes (easily) in 45 mans in the same number of tries it takes you to get to one final table at a 180 man.

Why Turbo?

For quite a while I was sold on the 10 minute regular 45 man tourneys. I just felt that the variance was too high on the turbos, and I stuck to my guns. Then one day a poster on the 2+2 forums asked for opinions on turbos vs. regulars and I started crunching some stats on my games to post. Lo and behold, I was over 10% more profitable on the turbos than the regulars!



One obvious reason for this is that the rake on non-turbo 45 mans is usually around 20%, while the rake on turbos is usually 10% or even less. For example, at the one dollar level, the regular tournament is $1.20, while the turbo is $1.10. This may not seem like a big deal, but bear in mind that 40% ROI over the long term is very good – and a %10 cut from that profit makes a big difference.

I keep a spreadsheet of numbers and notes on every tournament I play, and I noticed something interesting: The early blind levels didn't really have a lot of effect on my ability to win the tournament. The first blind levels are really just a waiting room for the real game. My game was mostly made or broken once the blinds got up around 100/200 or so. Why bother spending the first 45 minutes just folding everything in sight? Crank up a turbo and have the tournament rapidly progress to the point where the blinds can actually add to your stack!

This guide is strictly regarding the $3.25 45 man turbo on Stars, and if my limited sample size is any indicator, also the $6.50 turbo.

Fundamentals

First of all, realize that cash games and tournaments are drastically different beasts. You can easily destroy yourself as a tournament player by failing to grasp this fact and only playing A+ premium hands as the blinds disintegrate your stack. In many ways, tournament Poker isn't really Poker at all. “True” Poker is a complex, post-flop game that features deep and complex thinking, multi-street bluffing and all manner of fancy stuff that purists love. Tournament Poker is a primarily pre-flop game of aggression and mathematics. You can win Poker tournaments without even understanding post-flop play. Trust me, I suck at post-flop play.



If you are new to Poker, and intend on focusing on tournaments, avoid cash-game Poker books. There is nothing wrong with these books, but if you are a newbie the last thing you need is conflicting messages. Focus on reading material which is focused on tournaments. Harrington on Hold 'em Vols I and II are must-read books. If you only read two books in your Poker Life, make it those two. You cannot skip volume 2. They are not really separate books, but rather one book split into two. (Vol III, while very good, I do not consider essential)

I also recommend Poker Tournament Formula by Arnold Snyder. He is a favorite whipping boy of the 2+2 crowd, but I think it is a very good book, and not as dramatically different from Harrington's style as people (including Snyder himself) seem to think.

Bankroll Management

You really need at least $50 or so before you can consider playing the cheapest 45 man, the $1.10 turbo. I started out at $30, but I had a lot of swings where I was getting close to $10, so I don't recommend it. As a beginner, you are going to have some pretty big swings while you get a feel for these tournaments. Don't overestimate your skill and think you'll crush them without any downswings.

I am relatively careful with my bankroll, so my rule was to only play tournaments when my bankroll could support 50 buyins. This meant that I could only play the $3.25 tournament after I hit $150. If you find that you are doing very well at these tournaments, then you can probably loosen this restriction, but I would not recommend loosening it too much. I have been a consistent winner at these tournaments, but I have had 11 loss swings several times. Here are a couple of structures:

Hardgeus' structure:

$0-$120: $1.10 45 man
$120-$300: $3.25 45 man (If you dip back to $80, switch back to $1.10)
$300+: $6.50 45 man (If you dip back to $150, switch back to $3.25)

More Aggressive structure:

$0-$90: $1.10 45 man
$90-$120: $3.25 45 man (If you dip back to $50, switch back to $1.10)
$120+: $6.50 45 man (If you dip back to $90, switch back to $3.25)


Tools
PokerTracker

You need to get PokerTracker or a similar piece of software. If you are playing without PokerTracker, then you are putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. The real-time stats PokerTracker provides on your opponents are invaluable. There are a ton of stats, but the most basic stats are VPIP/PFR. These are “Voluntarily put money into pot” and “Pre flop raise” percentages. You will often see people on 2+2 express a player's behavior as 20/17 or 40/10. These stats are very telling of a player's overall style. I am going to give a couple of examples, and while they're by no means the bible, they are good general guidelines of player style: (Note that the numbers aren't accurate until you have seen about 25 or so hands with this player...once you hit about 50 hands or so you have a solid read)

8/0 - Total nit. Will not see a hand without the nuts, and is timid to boot. Postflop he'll probably fold if he whiffs the flop. Steal from this guy relentlessly.

18/12 - Very tight TAG player. You can probably steal from this guy preflop, but be careful of messing with him postflop or after he raises preflop -- he's probably going to punish you.

30/25 - This is a loose aggressive type player. He raises a lot of hands and sees a lot of flops. He probably tries to steal a lot postflop. It's best to attack these guys when you have a hand.

45/5 - This is a loose passive player. He limps into a ton of pots and probably just bleeds chips. If he is a big stack at your table, it is just through sheer luck. Players like this are usually calling stations post flop.

68/44 - Total maniac idiot. Reshove on him the second you get AQ.

PokerStove

PokerStove is a piece of software that lets you put in hole cards and compare their relative win %. It is an invaluable tool for determining if you made the right decision in certain situations. You will also find yourself very surprised at how well certain hands hold up against certain other hands. Every Poker player should have a copy of PokerStove at hand.

Player Base


Most of the players in these things are absolutely horrible. Terrible. They make your eyes water. But you *cannot* make the standard 2+2 mistake of assuming these guys never have hands. These guys *usually* have hands when they go nuts, they just tend to (way) overvalue them. Or not. Sometimes they have the nuts. Don't just say to yourself, “This is a $6 donkament. He can't have the nuts.”

That is hubris. Even donks get cards.

Anyway. There are a few basic player types in these things:

Psycho: These guys are easy to spot. They will usually shove one of the first ten hands, usually with KJo or something. If you get A9+ against these guys, take the flip. These guys usually bust out by the third blind level, or end up sitting at $8,000 chips. I would say that I double my stack through of one of these guys in about 25% of my tournaments before the fourth blind level. I prefer flipping preflop with these guys rather than playing after the flop. These guys will go nuts on middle pair, top pair weak kicker etc. It's hard to really know where you stand post-flop. You're probably going to get all your chips in the middle if you play with them, so you might as well make it while you're ahead.

Calling Station: We all know the type. Don't bluff them. Don't make moves. Don't C-bet. Either hit a hand and value bet them, or get out.

Calling Station-McShovesAlot: This is almost identical to the last guy, but he'll shove the turn/river if he spikes two pair, a straight, a flush etc. These guys tend to limp lots of speculative hands, play them passively, and then shove when they hit. I think a big 2+2 leak is not recognizing these guys and respecting their shoves.

Mr. Weak/Tight: He rarely sees a hand, and doesn't bet unless he hits the flop. Very exploitable. He'll come in handy once the blinds rise.

Mr. TAG: Hard to differentiate from Mr. Weak/Tight in the first few blind levels, but gets very dangerous once the blinds rise. Generally knows good positional poker and pushbotting. You need to keep good notes on the players to really spot him.

I really haven't seen too many great LAG players in these things. I think that because the field is so spewy to begin with, it is difficult to use a LAG approach. Most of the better players (and there actually are a fair number of decent players) tend to be TAG players.

Position

Position is one of the most important aspects of tournament play, and probably the least understood by new players. Simply put, position is how late you act during a given hand. The more players who act before you, the better. The button is the absolute best position (getting to act last post-flop), and the small blind is the absolute worst position (having to act first post-flop).

This concept takes a while to fully appreciate, but understand that it is not up for debate. This is not a hazy theoretical opinion. Position is king! He who acts last acts best. The last to act gets all of the attempts to steal, the guy who acts last gets to throw away his marginal hands when other players hit the nuts, the guy who acts last gets to check for a free card -- the guy who acts last acts best!

How many times have you seen the table do this: check, check, check on the flop. check, check, bet, fold fold on the turn? If you haven't noticed it, keep an eye out. Even when you know the button is stealing, there isn't really a whole hell of a lot you can do to stop him unless you have good cards -- or balls of steel.

There is a twofold reason you can play more marginal hands in late position than in early position. First of all, you have a pretty good idea how much it's going to cost you to play the hand. Since you're acting late, you know whether or not somebody is going to raise -- because they had to act first. If you have a hand like QJo in early position, do you really want to keep playing that hand if somebody makes a hefty raise after you? You're dominated by AJ, AQ, AK, AA, KK, QQ, JJ, QK, KJ, and are a dog against most pocket pairs. However, if everybody folded to you on the button with only the blinds left, you can feel fairly confident that your QJo is probably better than whatever the blinds are holding. This is the first reason you can open your range in late position.

The second reason you can open your range in late position is you act last postflop. This gives you so much information that you do not have if you are forced to act first or early after the flop. Let's use our QJo example. Let's say that you raise it in early position, and get three callers. Then the flop comes down KJ7. Now you are the first to act. Do you really want to fire a bet into three people when any one of them could be holding a K?

Now let's take the same example with you playing on the button. Let's say that you have a middle position limper, and everybody else folds. You go ahead and limp on the button with QJo, and both blinds call. Now you get that same KJ7 flop. In this case, you get to see everyone else act before you have to do anything. If the small blind bets, the big blind raises, and the MP goes all-in, you can fold the hand without a problem. If, however, the three other players check, you can feel fairly confident that your jacks are good.

Finally, let's assume that the flop totally missed you. Let's say that the flop was A47. Let's suppose that this time everybody checks to you. There is a pretty good chance, once again, that the flop missed everybody and that A is a scary card. Now, you can potentially steal this pot by making a bet even though you have nothing. Position gives you opportunities to steal that you don't have when you have to act early!

Stacks, Blinds, and Antes

The second most important consideration in tournament play is stack size relative to blinds. A play that would be madness with a stack of $1500 and blinds of $50 can be your only option with a stack of $1500 and blinds of $600. After position, ignorance of the implications of different stack sizes is the biggest leak suffered by novice tournament players.

In a nutshell, the bigger your stack is relative to the blinds, the more time you have to wait for good hands and positive opportunities. The lower your stack size relative to the blinds, the more desperate you are, and the more aggressive you have to be with a marginal edge.

So what constitutes a desperate stack? Once your stack is less than about 10 big blinds, you are pretty much at a desperate stack size. This may surprise novice tournament players, as in a turbo tournament you can expect to get below 10 bb pretty quickly. Once you get to this stack size, your options are limited. Pretty much, if you intend to play a hand, you're going to want to shove it (or make a preflop raise with the absolute intention of shoving any flop).

One of the biggest leaks of novice players is failing to appreciate their desperate stack and limping marginal hands (suited connectors, I'm looking at you!) when the blinds are way too high to allow them to do so. If you are 10bb or below it is against the law of Poker to play marginal hands to “see what the flop brings.” At 10bb or below you're pretty much going to shove or fold most hands.

This pretty much means that you are going to be shoving or folding most hands later in a tournament. You will hear whines at your table from people saying that all you know how to do is shove. You will hear people whine to you, “Play Poker!” But you will know better. If people don't like it, then they can go play a cash game, or a tournament with 5 hour blind levels. Given the structure of turbo tournaments, you will need to get into a shove-fest to win.

Once you get to about 20bb (preferably more), you can actually play some poker. You can raise 3xbb preflop, maybe fire a bet on the flop, and still get away from the hand if you are beaten. But if you're below 10bb, don't fool yourself into thinking that you can see a flop.

Aside from your own stack, you have to be aware of other players' stacks. Even the nittiest nit understands that when he gets below 5bb he is desperate. Occasionally you will run into somebody who will fold himself to nothing, (and when you see him, be sure to steal from him mercilessly) but most players will shove before they blind out. Part of your decision to play a hand should take into consideration the likelihood of a small-stack shove.

Let's suppose that you have $3000 chips, the BB is 150, you are on the button with K9s, and it is folded around to you. This is a pretty good spot to attempt a raise of 450 to try to steal the blinds, but what if the player in the BB has a stack of $800? You have to be aware that it is very unlikely that the BB will just call your bet. The BB will either fold or shove, and most players will shove very wide in this situation. You have to be aware of this psychology before you try to steal the blinds. Other players' stack sizes are a primary consideration when deciding how to play!

Let's take that exact same situation, except the BB player has a stack of $20,000. Here is a case where you really don't want to try to get fancy. That $20,000 player can shove all-in on top of you just to prove a point, and won't much care of he loses that $3,000 chips. Most players would be willing to do it just to show the table that it's not smart to mess with the big stack.
The best time to try a button steal like this is when the BB has a stack of roughly average size, such as your $3,000 stack. That $150 BB isn't very precious to him, and folding leaves him with a comfortable stack. In addition, if he were to shove all-in on you, he could lose his entire stack. A player with this stack size will be a lot less prone to defend his BB than a desperately small stack or a dangerously big stack.

This principle doesn't just apply to blind-stealing scenarios. In general, you want to get into skirmishes with the medium sized stacks, and be careful with the tiny and the huge stacks. The tiny stacks will go all-in out of desperation, and the giant stacks will put you all-in because they can.

A final word about antes. The tone of the tournament changes dramatically when the antes kick in. The ratio between the starting pot and players' stacks changes quite a bit. Preflop, before anybody has voluntarily put any money into the pot, the pot is now big enough to make a big difference. After the antes kick in, you want to eye every pot greedily for an opportunity to steal.

Cards

You will notice that I mention cards after position and stack sizes. This is because cards, in my opinion, are of much less importance than the prior two factors. Tournament Poker is a game of wagering, position, and aggression that happens to use cards. That doesn't mean that you can play any old cards any old time you like, but that you need to make your decisions taking all three of these factors into account, weighted heavily toward stack and position.

Early in the tournament, you should be playing tight -- and your cards are very important. There just aren't enough chips in the pot preflop to bother fighting over. Plus, you usually have a few total nutjobs flying around in the beginning, and you don't want to get squeezed between them with a marginal holding. In the first few blind levels, generally don't bother playing anything but tier-1 hands. This means AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ and (barely) AJ. Don't be afraid to re-shove if you are holding one of these big hands and somebody raises you. If somebody goes nuts on you in the first several hands, and you have one of these powerhouses, you are almost certainly best. Shove shove shove. You will run into a lot of guys in the first level of a tourney who are willing to go all-in on any broadway hand.

Early in the tournament, you are playing solid starting hands and playing ABC Poker (except for that shoving on psychos part). But as the tournament progresses, you are playing a more situational game. The importance of your cards (in a vacuum) declines as the importance of stacks, blinds, and position go up. At this point, your PokerTracker stats become very important, because they give you a good picture of the type of card ranges you can play against certain villains in certain positions. If a 18/12 player raises from middle position, you probably don't want to call with AT on the button. However, if that same raise came from a 60/44 player, you might consider shoving over the top. Shoves turn into folds, and folds turn into shoves depending on the stats of the player you're against, stack sizes etc.


Play Style: Early

You should only be playing quality hands early in a tournament. Any hands you play should be opened with a raise. You want to avoid limping into pots for several reasons. First, you don't want to let J6s into a pot cheaply only to have him hit a ragged two pair that beats your paired A with a K kicker. You don't want 34o to get to see a flop cheaply and hit a straight. You don't want to let 33 in the pot cheaply to hit a set. You want to punish your opponents for seeing flops when they hold marginal hands. You want them to play when you are the favorite. Another important reason to always raise is to thin the field and set yourself up for a cbet. (see below)

One important thing about the first two blind levels: 3xBB raises are crap! If you are at the 10/20 level in early-ish position with AA, don't raise 3x unless you want everybody to call. I generally won't raise less than 100 under any circumstances. If you are in the cutoff or button, you can get away with a 3x raise, but from hijack to UTG, you need to make a bigger raise. Once the BB hits 50, you can start doing a standard 3x raise, as people will now (well....somewhat) respect it.

As I said before, one place where I think it's +EV to depart from ABC Poker early is to identify the psychos at your table and take some coin flips. I know that there are a bazillion opinions on this, but the blinds raise so fast in these things that you need a little breathing room. An early double up can keep you out of awkward situations once the blinds rise and the tables get short. Bear in mind that I'm not telling you to immediately discount everybody at your table as a donk and call any shove with AJo. You need a read on somebody before you can do that. Luckily, there will usually be somebody at your table so bad that AJo is almost the nuts. If there aren't any nutcases at your table shoving crap, then you just have to stick to ABC Poker.


The Glorious C-Bet

A continuation bet, or cbet, is when you raise preflop, and then fire a bet on the flop regardless of what you see. You are continuing your aggression from preflop. Cbetting is one of the first steps you take from being a tight/passive nitty player towards becoming a solid TAG Poker player. Against your typical weak loose/passive online player, the cbet is a very powerful weapon. If you pick your spots carefully, cbetting will account for a large percentage of the chips you win over the course of a tournament.

A textbook example of a cbet is as follows: You pick up AKo in middle position and it is folded to you. You raise up 3xbb, and everybody folds but the blinds. The flop comes down ragged with 9s2d6h. The small blind checks, the big blind checks, and you fire a bet of half the pot. They both fold and you pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Generally, you want to avoid cbetting into more than two players. If you want to steal against more than two players, it is usually a good idea to wait until everybody checks-around the turn. The more players you have on the flop, the less likely you are to steal the pot with a cbet. Also, player reads are important. There are some players who just won't fold. Identify them and don't C-bet into them. Preflop stats actually give you a pretty good indication of a player's vulnerability to the C-bet. Somebody that is 12/8 will usually fold if they don't connect.


Play Style: Mid (32 left)

I would consider mid-game in a 45 man to start right around when the BB hits 100. This is the first point at which you want to really start stealing blinds. Unless you have hit a big hand, you can expect your stack to be anywhere from 1200 to 900 by this point in the tournament if you haven't hit a hand yet. It is very common for your stack to be approaching a desperation level. Most novice players fail to realize this, and just continue chugging along as if everything is fine. This point of the tournament can make or break you!

A lot of people play a style where they limp a lot of hands early, and then tighten up once the BB hits 100. This is the exact opposite of how I play. I play butt-tight in the early levels, and begin to get aggressive with the blinds once the BB hits 100. If your stack is 1200 at this point, 150 chips represents 13% of your stack. This is a big deal.

If your stack at this point is 1000 or under, then your only option is to shove. You cannot play any hand unless it is all in. Do not make the mistake of most crappy players by shoving all-in with QJ in early position at this point. Sometimes, this move is your only option, but at this point in the tournament it is virtual suicide.

You are far far better off open shoving 72o on the blinds than shoving QJ in early position. Unfortunately, the two players to your left have a big impact on your ability to steal. If you have a giant stack to your left with 60/40 stats, you can feel fairly certain that he is going to call your shove. In this case, you have to be very careful about picking your spot.

If you are lucky, you will hit a big hand or two by this point in the tournament and you won't have to shove on the blinds to survive. If you have a big enough stack, you can continue to play good, solid, ABC poker. Make a few raises, cbet, rinse and repeat. When you're getting good cards, it's not hard to do well in a tournament.

But, most likely, you will go card dead at some point and be forced to steal. You cannot depend on your cards. You cannot wait for your cards. You should not look down and say, “Is this hand good enough to play?” What you should do is say, “Am I in a good enough position, with proper stack sizes after me, and big enough blinds, that I have a good rate of success with an all-in shove, and IF I get called still have a moderate chance of winning?”

The Glorious Shove

One thing you have to realize about tournament Poker is that at some point it will devolve into a shove-fest. It devolves into a big mess of people shoving all-in preflop. This is just reality due to the structure of the quickly rising blinds.

This does not mean, however, that you simply shove the second you get ATo in your hand. A very important principle in tournament Poker is it is far better to have everybody fold to your shove than to call a shove or to have someone call your shove.

It is far better to button-shove A8o when everybody folds to you than it is to call a shove with AKs. As the tournament progresses, the blinds and antes get so huge relative to the stacks that stealing an uncontested pot is better than calling all-in to win somebody's stack.

When other people fold, you can't lose the hand. AA will lose to 72o if the flop is 772. It happens every day. Your primary goal in tournament poker should be to steal pots nobody is interested in fighting over. This, of course, doesn't really happen until the blinds get very high. This is why there is little point in playing marginal hands early in the tournament.

I have gotten to the final table of many 45 man tournaments with a healthy stack after going completely card dead for the entire tournament. This is only possible due to the application of judicious stealing.


Play Style - Mid/Late (22 left)

One feature of 45 man tournaments is that you spend a good amount of time at short tables. Unlike tournaments with hundreds or thousands of players, at the 45 man you are dealing with constantly growing and shrinking tables. Most players do not properly adjust for this, and making the proper adjustments is part of how you win these tournaments!

At a 9 man table, A6o is not a particularly great hand, and you certainly don't want to raise with it in middle position. At a 5 man table, this suddenly becomes a pretty good hand for attacking the blinds in the same position. At a 9 man table, two after the BB is middle position. At a 5 man table, two after the BB is the cutoff seat!

At these short tables, you will be hitting the blinds far more quickly than you will at a full table. You want your “pressure” level to increase as your table gets shorter. Your hand ranges need to widen, your concept of position needs to change, and your overall aggression level needs to increase. You are going to be shoving a lot more liberally here.

But then -- BOOM! -- you're at a full table again. You have to take a step back and re-assess the situation. Are you still as desperate as you were at the short table? How soon will you hit the blinds again? You need to re-tighten your hand ranges. You need to wait for later to position to attack the blinds.

Usually, relative to the blinds, you will be short stacked at this point in the tournament. The antes have kicked in, and the preflop pot is pretty big. Unless you have gotten lucky at some point, your only move is going to be all-in. Remember that in these 45 mans most people tend to tighten up when it gets down to about 15 or so people. Everybody wants to hit that final table.

There is usually a pretty good amount of time between 15 players and the final table. You will hit the blinds a bunch of times. You cannot afford to play tight here and hope to fold your way into the final table. The only way of surviving this dragging short table is to increase your aggression on the blinds. While everybody else is trying to fold themselves to a warm and fuzzy “at least I hit the final table,” you need to be attacking relentlessly to grow your stack.

Play Style - Final Table

Your final table play if you are short stacked isn't much different than before. Shove in the right spot. A lot of people went from hoping to fold their way into the final table to now trying to fold their way into the money. Screw mincashing. You are here to win. One win makes up for a lot of losses. You didn't shove on the blinds 20 times so you could mincash. You are here to win.

It doesn't matter if you are the short stack at this point. You want to go after the middle stacks here. Don't get into fights with the other short stacks or the big stacks. Pick on the guys with 20/10 stats who want to fold their way into a cash. Pick on the guys who won't call your shove with anything other than QQ+. People hate busting out just before cashing. Take advantage of this fact and steal their pots.

If you get lucky at this point, you should be one of the bigger stacks relatively quickly at the final table. Either that, or you have busted out. At the final table, it only takes 3 or 4 steals to become a big stack. While villains are waiting for QQ+ and AK to “hit a bit pot,” you have already hit a big pot just by stealing the blinds with Q9.

Once you have a strong stack, you can now start using your stack like a bludgeon. Now you don't have to shove to make everybody fold. You can do a 3xbb raise and that's enough to put people all-in. You need to keep up your aggression and bully the table. Raise from the SB, raise from the BB, raise from the button. If you keep it up, something magical will start to happen. You'll start getting walks in the BB.

Play Style - 3 Way

If you are the short stack when it gets 3-way, then you play pretty much as described above for the short stack.

If you have a decent stack, however, you have to identify the “dynamic” of the 3-way relationship at the table. Who is the big stack, who is the small stack? Are you all even? You want to try to get the other two guys into a pissing match with one another. You want both of these guys to dread a confrontation with you, and to think that it's a much better idea to pick on one another.

If you have been playing like I suggested above, this will happen naturally. They will both think you are a total lunatic, and won't want to get into a pot with you unless they have a strong holding. I advocate a lot of button folds when it gets 3 way. The SB will be tempted to raise on the BB, and the BB will be tempted to shove on the SB. Even though one of these guys will end up as the giant stack if they go all-in, that shouldn't matter to you. You should be a better heads-up player than them and you should be able to make up the chip difference.

Play Style - Heads Up

Most players at this level crumble in heads-up play. They are flat-out terrible. Usually, they are either way too passive and you can bowl over them, or they are shove happy and you can bust them the second you get a decent hand.

If your opponent folds his SB to you more than once or twice, you can be rest assured you can bowl over him. All you really have to do against these guys is raise any decent hand. When they re-raise or re-shove, just let the hand go. Keep the pressure on them. Raise with any remotely reasonable hand. Fire at flops and see if he'll let you steal post-flop. Usually, players like this won't go crazy on you unless they have a real hand. More often than not, they will not have a real hand. Just keep leaning on them until they get desperate and have to go all-in.

A large number of villains will just shove the first hand. That's great. These guys are pretty easy to bust. What I like to do against these guys is raise my reasonable hands (Ax, Kx, high connectors), limp my garbage (I never fold my SB), and limp my powerhouses (AT+, 88+).

These hyper-aggressive types will start shoving over your SB limps all of the time. That's fine, let them do it. Get them in the habit of shoving over your limped SB. Then limp the next Ax or powerhouse hand you get and you'll bust them most of the time. With the hyper-aggressive, you usually have to let them hang themselves.

Common Problems

Villain Aces

It's hard to let go of QQ after an A flops. But, generally, somebody has the Ace. If you raised preflop, go ahead and fire a c-bet into two villains, but give up if they raise or call. Don't fire into more than two villains, I promise that one of them has an Ace. One of the fundamental facts about the crappy players at these tournaments is that they always keep every ace.

Villain Flushes

Crappy players at this level keep every suited no matter what. No amount of preflop raising will get them off of their beloved sooted. They will keep every J9s, they will keep every 42s, they will keep every 74s. They will keep every sooted no matter what you do. If you see a three-flush on the board, there is roughly a 30% chance (at a full table) that somebody has a flush. Keep that in mind. Most of these guys will shove the second their flush hits. If a 3flush hits the board, and a calling station, or some other relatively passive type player shoves, he probably has the flush.

Low/Mid Pocket Pairs

You are playing these low and middle pocket pairs for set value. You want to get into a flop cheaply, and you hope to flop a set. If you miss your set get out of the hand unless you have a solid overpair (99 with a low flop). Unless you are an excellent postflop player, you are going to get yourself into trouble with a weakish pair that isn't an overpair to the board. Note also, that if you have 99 and it is an overpair, there is a very good chance that somebody has a straight draw.

Suited Connectors

You are playing these for straight and flush drawing potential. Just like with low/mid pocket pairs, if the flop doesn't give you what you're looking for get out of the hand. Unless you are a great postflop player, you shouldn't continue with 76s after you hit a 7. With lowish suited connectors, you are not trying to spike a pair, you are going for a straight or a flush. If you don't have one of these draws, get out.

Low Broadway

Very little gets beginners into trouble like low, unsuited broadway hands. These hands consist of JTo, QTo, KTo, QJo, KJo. You have to be very careful about these hands, because it is extremely easy to be dominated by a better hand. In general, you should trow these hands away unless it is folded to you in good position. You should not call or reraise any raises with these hands.

This advice will no doubt bother a lot of players. These hands make up a good chunk of most beginners' raising range. But these hands will bust you for a lot of reasons. It is very easy to end up going all-in with KJ when you hit your J, only to lose your whole stack to AJ. Second, if you hit two pair with one of these hands, it is going to give someone at least a straight draw if not a made straight. Two pair with broadway hands is extremely dangerous!

You can play suited broadway a little more aggressively, but you have to remember that you are playing more for straight and flush potential than for single or double pair potential. That's not to say you fold every time you hit a pair, but you have to be very conscious of your opponent when you spike a pair. If you hit a J when you are holding QJs, you can't expect your hand to be the nuts when your 12/8 opponent raised UTG.

Ace Rag

Another common beginner mistake is to play Ace Rag. Because almost everybody plays every ace, it is very dangerous to get involved with a hand when your kicker is mediocre. All too often people bust out with A6 when they're up against AJ+. You can be a little more liberal with keeping Ace Rag when it is folded to you and you are on the button or in the cutoff. But don't forget it is possible for the blinds to have a better Ace than you do! Also, if your second card pairs, you hand isn't very strong. You want to go into hands where both of your cards are live. In general, Ace Rag is a very dangerous hand and should be avoided.

You can be a bit more liberal with low suited Aces, but once again you are treading on dangerous territory. You want to treat suited Aces as a speculative hand. Either flop a flush or flush draw, or get out of the hand. Don't get excited when you flop a pair of Aces when you kept A3s. If you flop an Ace when playing Ace Rag suited, maybe you can fire one bet, but fold after any aggression.


Glossary

Ace Rag: A hand with an Ace and a low card (generally 8 or below)

Ante: Chips that are automatically put into the pot for each player -- in addition to the blinds -- at the beginning of a hand. In PokerStars Hold 'Em tournaments, the antes usually begin after the first 200 BB level.

bb: Big blinds. Often, numbers in Poker are expressed as a multiple of big blinds. So if the big blind is 100, and you have a stack of 1500 chips, you have 15 bb.

Broadway: Broadway hands are any unpaired combination of cards 10 or above. For example, QT is a low broadway hand, KQ is a high broadway hand. Generally, I don't think people refer to AK as broadway.

Bust: To lose all of your chips, and hence the tournament

Bubble: The time period when one more player busting means that the remaining players cash. Also, the bubble can occur in a 45 mans just before the final table, even though only 7 get paid.

Button: The dealer button. The player in this position acts last after the flop.

Calling Station: A passive type player who will generally call all bets to the river regardless of the strength of his hand, or the strength you have represented. Do not try to bluff them.

Cash: To make any amount of money in a tournament

Cbet: Continuation bet. The act of betting on the flop because your raised pre-flop. You are continuing your aggression from preflop. Typically, a continuation bet is when you have missed the flop, or only have a draw, but any follow-up bet to your preflop raise can be called a continuation bet.

Cutoff: The player just before the button.

Dominated: When you have a hand which shares a card with your opponents hand, and your other card is a lower rank than his other card. For example, AJ is dominated by AK.

Kicker: The unpaired card in your hand that comes into play in the case of a tie. If you have AK and your pair your A, the K is your kicker.

LAG: Loose aggressive player. Plays lots of hands, raises a lot, steals a lot. A pain in the ass.

Leak: A mistake in your Poker game that results in you losing money.

Mincash: To make the minimum payout in a tournament. Usually double your buyin.

MP: Middle position. Middle position in between the blinds and the button.

Nit: A super tight player who doesn't play any hands unless he has a powerhouse, and will not commit a lot of chips to the pot unless he is a solid favorite.

Open: To be the first person to see the blinds or raise a pot preflop.

Open Shove: To shove all-in when you are the first person to see the blinds or raise a pot preflop.

Overpair: A pair that is higher than any of the cards on the board. If you hold 99, and the flop is 276, you have an overpair.

Rake: The portion of the tournament buy-in that goes to PokerStars rather than the prize pool. In the $1.10 turbo 45 man, the ten cents is the rake.

Range: How many different hands you are willing to play. A wide range includes more, and weaker, hands. A tight range only includes premium hands.

Short Table: A Poker table with under 9 players, typically 6 or less.

Shove: To go all-in. Bet all of your chips.

TAG: Tight aggressive player. Generally only plays good starting hands, but plays them strongly.

TPTK: Top pair top kicker

UTG: Under the gun. The first seat to act after the blinds preflop. This is considered a very poor position, and raises from this seat (if from a decent player) should be taken seriously.

Variance: Deviation from the “expected” win rate. Even if you play perfect poker, sometimes you will lose many games in a row. This is variance.

Villain: Your opponent in a Poker hand.

Walk: When everybody folds to your BB.


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