Many poker players think that avoiding risk means not entering a pot unless you have a hand. While this does have some merit in 10 person tournaments or maybe even 100 person tournaments, in the 1000+ fields, especially the 5000+ fields, this couldn't be further then the truth. The best way to advance deep into tournaments is to accumulate more chips than you pay for every rotation. Now this used to mean just playing tight, buying time and picking your spots against the tight players. But people play looser, they play more aggressive, and everyone who plays poker knows about stealing blinds. There's all sorts of tactics and counter tactics of defending blinds, re-stealing and all sorts of stuff. Plus other people accumulate chips like crazy, and even if you can steal the blinds long enough to tread water until you catch aces, to win a 5000 person buy in it would take some SERIOUS luck EVEN IF you only went all in with aces. EVERY all in individually is about 80% to win with aces... but you not only have to win a 80% chance... you have to win EVERY SINGLE 80% chance... the odds of winning with aces 3, 4 5 times in a row... are just not that good. Putting yourself at risk, even when the odds are in your favor is a VERY dangerous game, unless you know how to seriously accumulate chips and rise above everyone else, so that when your aces do get cracked, or when KK runs up against AA, you have plenty to work with.
That's what Daniel Negreanu's power holdem strategy is about. Stealing blinds was the old age way to win, stop and go to defend your blinds, widening your calling range, restealing blinds and "squeezing" your opponents a little more recent and still fairly effective.
There are now 2 modern ways that work together in the new age of poker...
Trapping your opponents (this is the counter move for squeeze plays), and small pot poker.
Trapping your opponent means flat calling raises with AA. If you get reraised you can play a big pot. I know I said all that about aces, but this works because for one you're calling a raise and if no one reraises your aggressive opponents going to hand you a lot of his stack, but it usually won't cause you to risk all of it. Someone reraised on the other hand, the original raiser may call, putting a lot of extra chips in the pot. Now you can either flat call and cause the "squeeze" player feel like he has to bluff off his chips to you, hope the original raiser bluffs off his chips, or checks to you and calls down with a marginal hand because of the pot size. OR you can reraise, make both your opponents put more money in the pot, or cause them to fold, and rake in a pretty big pot with no risk. It's pretty likely that if theres 3 people still in right now that after you put in this rereraise that ONE of your opponents will try to isolate headsup so they can increase your chance of winning. So they'll probably push, and the other may fold, or not. Either way, now you get a much larger pot then you normally would, you have an 80% chance of winning, and since you're going to be accumulating chips anyways, you probably will have more chips after the hand then almost everyone if you don't already.
Well if you're going to do this trapping, whether it be to limp with aces at an aggressive table, or even limp in late position with an aggressive blind stealer in the big or small blind, or whether you're just calling a raise with a monster... You're STILL going to want to have a way so that every time you do this you have the guy outchipped.
How do you do this?
By employing Daniel Negreanu's power holdem strategy
Phil Ivey, Phil Helmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and some of the other best poker tournament players in the world employ a similar strategy.
This strategy is raising, mostly with position, with all sorts of hands... But you are raising small amounts... You WANT the blinds to call you, because you can outplay them, you understand pot odds, you understand that with unpaired cards they'll only hit the flop 36% of the time, and from a small blind or big blind they'll have a random hand, probably with a weak kicker that they're uncertain about. You understand when they're strong, when they're weak, you understand the power of position and you understand what a maniac image this gives you... and you also understand that when people play back at you, eventually they're going to play back at you, and you're going to have a hand. But you also understand that you don't need to bet big and commit your opponent to the flop, you don't need to bet big to take the pot down. You also understand that if your opponents are passive you can see the hand to the river, and decide if it's best and bet accordingly. You also understand that if they're passive aggressive (bet if checked to, call if someone bets, occasionally raise if they have a big hand, but not against someone who keeps betting) and you're out of position that you can play more hands because if you're on a draw you can bet small and control the pot, and you can bet small for information on the flop and bet big enough for them to fold their weak hand if you think they will. If they're passive with a monster hand, you can get paid off because you'll hit your 4 outer, and they won't be able to get away from their hand. Others will look at this hand and think you're a maniac, giving you a perfect image.
Granted, you have to adapt to your table and make adjustments... If someone is reraising you every hand, this is when you trap, knock down the aggressors, and then make the same play of calling raises with position, with drawing hands to scare your opponents. You can just call a bet with nothing against an opponent you think is weak, if he checks to you on the turn you can usually bet and take it down. You can bet the flop with a backdoor flushdraw, and then your opponent may call and check expecting you to bet and you check and hit the backdoor flush, and your opponent who was maybe slowplaying a hand might give you all of his chips. If you flat call to bluff on the turn, you might also pick up a backdoor flush draw, and your opponent may think he can push you off of a hand, and he'll commit a lot of chips and you'll reraise a small amount and he'll feel like he has to call because you checked and you'll get paid off. If you have a weak ace and you hit and your opponent calls a bet out of position you want to check... Maybe he has AK, maybe he has a draw, but the best way to get money out of him is to check behind on the turn... Now you know that if he bets out he either missed his draw or he has you beat. Well if you see a possible draw on board you can call and you just got extra chips out of him because you checked, but if not, you can fold or just call a bet to a much smaller pot. On the other hand, he could have ACE KING and you might just hit two pair on the river and get a lot of his chips as well. It's much harder for an opponent to get away from a hand when they hit against a player like you, and it's harder for them not to check and call to you, as you should be fairly passive against an aggressive player. They've probably seen you bet on the turn as well, you might have had it, maybe not... But they see you betting all the time, and expect you to. They think they can trap you, but you're not going to fall for it because you're not the maniac they think you are. It's a controlled mania, it's absolutely great. and of course there's going to come a time in a tournament when an aggressive player bets and you flat call (after doing so before) with aces, and someone trys a squeeze play at the wrong time and you get it all in with aces... There's going to be some opponents that check raise you with nothing, and you're going to hit two pair or a straight. When you play like this you really don't want to slowplay a monster because if you check after betting every other flop, your opponent should be able to figure it out. Since you're playing small pots, it's not that necessary to protect your hand by raising, because you're not going to fall for someone who draws out on you and bets the pot out of nowhere. If he does you can fold... If your hands vulnerable, it's not that strong to begin with... You'll be playing a lot of hands, so you're going to see a monster hand sooner or later. You're also not going to need to take risks protecting against hands when you have a maniac image because people might call and suck out, or call with a big enough draw that they hit... AND because it's such a small pot, you don't gain enough by betting big to protect your hand. Many times people get scared out of a pot that they have the best hand in... Say you have A9 and the flop is 9 high... Well a T a J a Q or a K could hit, but that doesn't mean your opponent has it. He has a 12% chance of hitting on the turn if he has 2 over cards, but A9 with 99 isn't that strong anyways. Keep the pot small and you'll end up winning more than your fair share of them. If your opponent has an ace, or even a lower pair with an ace, it would be a BIG mistake to chase him out because if the ace comes you have him and can extract value. You look like such a lucky player and joker, and maniac, and all the characteristics of a bad player when you play like this... But you're adapting to your table, and you know how they're going to adapt to you. You're folding a lot of big hands when they play back at you, others at the table think you have garbage, the person in the hand is upset he didn't get paid off. A player raised in EP playing the first hand in 40 hands! I had KQ of hearts so I called just HOPING he had aces so if I hit I got his whole stack. The flop came QJT with 2 spades and he leads out and bets. Now the hands I should put my opponent on are the top 1/40 hands or 2.5% of hands especially in early position... but lets just say he wasn't picking up a hand and give him credit for the top 4% of hands. This includes AA KK QQ JJ TT 99, AKs, AQs, AK...
That's it... Now which hands am I a favorite over? Not many... Given that range of hands I actually only have a 28% chance of winning by the river. I know in traditional style of play you can't lay that sort of hand down.... if you don't have the best hand you could have 13 outs! But the pot isn't big because you didn't make it big. Your style is such that people are waiting for you to bluff them when they have a monster. This is usually a hand that I will just call down because I know if I hit I could bust the player... But I mean he either has 2 of my outs, a straight already and I'm drawing dead, or a set so if the board pairs my straight is still no good. OR he has 4 of my outs, and top pair. If you give him credit for possibly holding AQ he could have a pair with a flush draw and a straight draw.... BEST case scenario he has 99. But the point is, I hit my "outs" and they may not even be good. I should have been done with the hand but he bet the pot so quickly I didn't have much time to think, and I thought If I called I'd get some info. Well unfortunately the flush card didn't come He bet about 2/3 of the pot . I called again... The river was a 9. No possible flush, he bet the pot again. I hit my hand and still was thinking about laying it down... I knew he was strong, but I had already called it down so I called hoping he had a set, but it was AK and I lost a big pot. The funny thing is, given the fact that my 9 hit, I was STILL not even a 60% favorite over his range of hands. If not for my Negreanu style of play I KNOW I would've been dead and had all my money in on the flop. As it was I was still able to have some chips left
The more you learn to play this style well, the more you'll realize that you can afford to fold BIG hands. Another example was when I flopped two pair... I was eating the table alive, and there was only one person who had as many chips as I did. I raised with 96 of spades and the flop was 965 with two dimonds. The small blind immediately went all in... he was the only person left at the table who had more chips than me... I saw him go all in with top pair twice already, and was pretty sure I had him drawing to 3 outs. Well I was right but in hindsight I still shouldn't have called. He might have had 2 overcards with a flushdraw, and he might have had a pair of 5s with a flushdraw... I decided that he didn't have 78 because I had seen him slow play a straight. He could have had TT maybe too. Well he showed A9 and hit his ace on the river taking me out. It made me stop and think. How good were my chances of winning the hand... the answer is about 80%... But consider this... Early on I had 3000 in chips from stealing blinds and pots alone.. my opponent had 3100. If I don't call I'm going to probably get about 20% of all my opponents stacks at the table before it breaks... That's about 2500 chips risk free. So I'm either 100% to get 2500, or 80% to get 3000. Well 80% of 3000 is 2400, 100% of 2500 is more. Now the 80% of that 2500 (if I survive, I'm getting 2500 as well) is 2000... So you have to ask yourself, is 2000 chips worth risking a 20% chance of getting knocked out early on?
I say no... and I certainly have some clear arguments for it, but I'll get to that in the next post.
Labels: MTT, pot odds, reward, risk management, small pot poker, surviving big fields