Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My thoughts on playing big BB poker..

As I've pointed out, I am relatively new to playing poker. However, I've put a tremendous amount of thought into different aspects of the game. What do I mean by playing big BB poker? Quite simply, I am referring to playing turbo blinds. My first experience with playing turbo blinds was in the Daniel Negraneau Poker Stars freeroll.

I managed to place around 455th. When I think back to that tournament, I got eaten alive by aggressive players when the blinds were around 1200 chips and I had about 12x BB in my stack. Even then, I realized that the large blinds can put you into a situation where the next hand you play could very well be your last. As a result, I sat back waiting for a premium hand. The blinds whirled round and round and my stack got chewed up pretty fast as I had a run of very bad cards. Thinking back to this first experience, waiting for a premium hand was a very reasonable decision.

However, how I actually played my premium hands could have been better. The last few hands that I did play were AK off suit (big slick) and big chick, AQ. I recall raising about 2x the bb as at this time blinds were about 1200 chips and I only had about 12k in chips. Of course, there is only about a 36% chance of pairing one of your cards on flop and I missed. Two players had called my raise and were in the pot with me. The player out of position went all in and I reluctantly folded. It turns out he had absolutely nothing but KQ that missed. The player that called him had AJ and had paired his jack--first card on the flop. He won with a pair of jacks-ace kicker and had I called I would have lost.

Again, thinking back, in the situation that I was in, you can't afford to not play a hand like big slick. My tight play did enable me to escape elimination, but left me with only about 8xBB stack. Though it may seem like I played the hand reasonably well. The end result was that I was left with only 9k in chips and again a run of very bad cards to play ensued. The only otherway that I could have maybe played the hand better was to simply go all in preflop. Sure the player with AJ probably would have called me and won, but I still had enough chips that he may have thought twice about risking 1/3 of his stack on AJ. If he folded, then I would have either stolen the blind or ultimately beaten the other player that played that hand.

I played AQ in virtually the same exact way. Raised 2400, missed flop, and folded to post flop betting action that would have put me all in. This left me virtually crippled in terms of my chip stack and I eventually was all in on the BB with K9 suited and lost.

Of course, hind-sight being 20x20, I now realize that in that same position, a premium hand like AK is not likely to come around again before I even have enough of a stack worth doubling. I would have played both of those hands reasonably well if I had had a large stack at the table. However, when you are short stacked, you have to increase your tolerance for risk in order to survive.

I know clearly believe that the risk of going all in with AK to either steal the blind or maybe win a horse race is far less than raising to fold, or going all in after missing the flop completely. Nothing creates greater risk in a tournament that being completely exposed at the table with a low stack as your only option is to go all in preflop at that point anyway and by the time you make that decision, it will ultimately be with a far worse hand than AK.

My final thoughts are quite simple. Part of my new strategy is quite simple again... I start off the tournament playing very tight--unless I get a hand like pocket KK/QQ/JJ in which case I will try to push someone all in preflop to get a chance to double or triple up. I am always willing to gamble with one of those hands and occassionally with AK/AQ. If this works and often it does, if I double up, I will force myself to keep accumulating chips either by carefully bluffing if I have a run of bad cards, or maximizing the play of my good cards. Once I am in the top 3 in stacks of say a 45 player tourney, I will really switch to a very tight game to hold on to my chips.

There have certainly been occassions where I've been the chip leader in a 45 player tourney only to hit a very nice card rush. This can often be the worst time for it to happen. as there are often only 25 players left in the tournament, many of which are very desparate and fully willing to gamble. In the times that I have been willing to continue to play aggressively with the chip stack lead, it doesn't take long to lose half your chips to people who are willing to gamble and get lucky.

In a nutshell, it's a simple strategy... whether ultimately it means ocillating or vacillating between playing loose aggressive to accumulate chips and tight to hold on to them, it is generally very effective. Play tight until you make the bubble. After that, if you want to actuall win, you have to be willing to gamble again. Playing head's up in a turbo tourney is extremely dependent on luck. If you get a run of bad cards vs an aggressive player, you will get run down very quickly. Too many times head's up, I've had to call an aggressive player all in head's up. Even though I've made the right call and had huge preflop odds--I've lost some brutal horse races.

e.g. JJ vs 78--player hit set on flop.
10 10 vs q3--player hit deuce to six with runner runners on turn and river.
Ak vs 72--player paired their deuce.
88 vs A3--paired the ace.
Kk vs J3--player catches to seven to J on river.

Hence, if I am looking for the 'w' in the tournament, I will choose risking getting knocked out in forth to build a massive stack before I will want to be ends up head's up with a short stack.

No comments: