Five tips to thrive in big events
If you're saving up your money to play in one of the big $10,000 events on the poker circuit, these five tips will help make you a winner.
1. Don't lay odds on your pre-flop raises.
In these big tournaments, after about level four, antes are introduced to go along with the blinds. For example, if the blinds are 400-800, the ante will be 100. With nine players at the table, there will be 2,100 in the pot before the cards are even dealt.
If you have a hand that you want to raise with, I suggest making it 2,000 to go. The so-called standard raise would be to 2,400 (three times the big blind), but you can get away with a smaller raise and accomplish the same objective.
With a smaller raise, say 2,000, you risk less to win the 2,100; the standard raise costs you 2,400 to win that same 2,100 pot.
2. Protect your chips before protecting the pot.
When you're involved in a pot, the first thing to think about is protecting the chips that you already have. Then you can focus on protecting your hand and not losing the pot. In other words, in marginal situations, where you probably have the best hand but could easily be wrong, err toward the side of caution.
Yes, this approach will cause you to get outdrawn by your opponents more often, but when they do, you'll lose the minimum rather than all the chips in front of you. For example, you hold pocket aces and the board reads K-K-7-2.
If your opponent checks, play cautiously and check as well. If he bets on the river card, you should usually just call and hope that he doesn't have the third king in his hand.
3. Avoid coin flip situations.
When you make it all the way to the end of the tournament, try to avoid playing large pots in situations where the odds of you winning are close to 50-50. Having a middle pair versus two higher cards (7-7 versus A-K) is a classic example.
The best way to stay out of trouble in a marginal situation like this is to avoid re-raising before the flop. Instead, just call to see the flop first. And don't go crazy with the all-in bets!
If you continually put all of your money in before the flop, you're destined to go broke. Sooner or later, your small pair will be in terrible shape against a bigger pair, or you'll be in that coin flip against two overcards. Both are situations that good players try to avoid.
4. Don't bluff too much.
If you bluff too much, your table image will be damaged. It will be less and less likely that you'll be able to get away with future bluffs as the tournament progresses.
Small semi-bluffs are okay for the most part, but when risking a large percentage of your chips, you should rarely be bluffing big.
5. Understand your stack size and never give up.
I often see short-stacked players make desperate moves. They think they have no other choice since they're so low on ammunition, but their desperation is often premature.
You needn't be overly concerned with how your chips stack up against the tournament average. It's more important to focus on your stack size in relation to the blinds and antes. For example, if you have 12,000 in chips, and the blinds are 600-1,200, you only have ten times the big blind.
At that point, when you do decide to play a hand, you'll need to push it all in. That doesn't mean you should go all-in with a trash hand. You can wait at least one full round before taking your best shot at the pot.
These five tips are the recipe for success in deep stack tournaments like the World Poker Tour. Keep them in mind and you'll outlast much of the competition.
By Daniel Negreanu