Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reading is Fundamental

Tournament play can be quite discouraging.  But it can also be more rewarding than any ring game.  Obviously the intensity is higher since each decision can be make or break.  As is my general policy, I’ll post about the bad just as much as I’ll post about the good.

The situation was the weekly WWdN game on Pokerstars.  Things were pretty uneventful the first hour.  I had chipped up, then chipped down thanks to a well-played flopped boat from the Colonoscopy Kid.  I then managed to basically double up after the break three times in a row.  I won a race with AK vs QQ, I dominated said kid’s AQs with pocket Aces, then busted WWonka on a flopped set of Jacks that I too slowplayed.  Chip leader had my name all over it.

As we approached the money, I was sitting pretty in 5th with 14 left.  My comfort level wasn’t high however, we had just entered the 200/400/25 level and my M, although average, was in the 6-7 range.  That’s when I made my read.  My really, really bad read.

I’m in the BB with A2o and it’s folded all the way around to the SB who makes a 3x raise to T600.  I think “Hey, that’s just a steal attempt.”  I push.  Unfortunately, my opponent was not Wil Wheaton and I could not bust his pocket Kings.  Out in 13th.  On a really, really bad read.  Did I mention how bad the read was?

Still, I have to feel that my tournament play has improved in the past few months.  While certainly no LuckBox, I have managed to cash in the triple digits three times so far this year for about $700 in total.  Sadly, my NL ring game has progressed in an equal but opposite direction and I’m left pondering the subtleties of tournament vs. ring game play.

I’ll probably make a longer post sometime, but to me, the crux of the difference lies in fold equity.  In all of my tourney cashes, I’ve risked my many of my chips on plays where I was relatively confident that my opponent could not call.  In fact, it’s in the late stages of a tournament where all the money is made.  It’s the experience of surviving late into MTT’s that has enabled me to make proper laydowns early on in a tournament.

Case in point:  I had been dealt pocket Queens in MP and raised.  Two callers saw a flop of 699.  I made a strong continuation bet, but was check-raised all-in.  Even though the tourney was filled with less-than-stellar players at this point in the game, I still folded.  I could have been good, but in the early stages, survival was most important.  My stack was down to T1200, but the pot I just gave up would be a pittance compared to the pots I’d be stealing later on with fold equity.

Tourney play is nearly all situational and has little to do with the cards you’re dealt.  It’s all about position, being first to enter, the stack sizes of your opponents left to act.  Put all those variables together and you can make many properly aggressive plays to earn chips towards the ultimate goal.

And absolutely none of that has anything to do with cash games.  None.  Fold equity is near zero with the thought of rebuying in your opponent’s mind.  I will say that there are some opportunities to use fold equity to your benefit in a cash game, but those situations are far more rare.

After my dreams of repeating as champ were dashed, I had thoughts of entering a quick SNG but then quickly decided against it.  I had just played for two hours with nothing to show for it and felt myself creep into the mindset of “I’ll just quickly win my buy-in back.”  Those thoughts have led to disaster before, so I called it a night enduring only a very small flesh wound to the bankroll.

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