Fit or Fold: suddenly the stations aren't calling

Winning the most chips on Replay generally comes from getting maximum value with good hands from players who call too much. But there is another situation I have typically exploited during tournaments, which is based on players actually folding too much. When you get to the stage in a tournament where the average stack is relatively small (20-40 big blinds) and play becomes short handed, people start playing fit or fold, meaning they either have something or they will let the pot go. Suddenly instead of needing to open to 5x to get folds like you would in ring or deep stacked, 2x is now getting folds. It becomes worthwhile to fight for every pot and people do not seem able to adjust.

As the number of players at the table decreases, you need to play a wider range of hands to avoid being blinded out and letting your opponents steal the blinds. But players frequently do not do this. In a 4 or 5-handed game I will open 40+% of hands and just print value. You will get folds preflop a good amount of the time, and when you get called you can get plenty of folds from c-bets (I typically c-bet 2bbs or about 40% of pot). If you get called on the flop just give up unless you have a good hand (top pair+) or big draw. You can win many pots uncontested or by bluffing the flop, and when you actually have something it is easy to get paid because you are opening so often.

Basically, people here are scared for their tournament life and are playing hands that they are comfortable with, which gives you a huge opportunity to pick up easy pots. By opening a lot of hands, you are forcing them to play back at you with hands they don’t like or to give up too many pots. Of course, you have to tread carefully with this approach because some players may adjust and start calling more in which case you may need to wait for a value hand. But, against most opponents you can tell pretty easily when they finally show up with the hand they have been waiting to crush you with, and you can easily fold and lose 4 big blinds total, while you have been picking up a ton of other pots.

Here’s the prototypical situation: you have have an average stack of 30 big blinds with 5 players left in an MTT. You can open raise with 41% of all hands, which is all Ax, Kx, broadways, suited connectors, some suited gappers, and Q8s+/J8s+. If somebody raises in front of you, you fold most of that range, but if somebody limps you open 2x+1x per limper over them. Then you c-bet pretty much every flop. When you miss, if the flop is multi-way or you end up out of position you can sometimes check-fold, or if you have a medium strength hand with showdown value you can sometimes check back. But the initiative you showed pre-flop is worth a bet on almost every flop because you have a perceived range advantage and your opponent doesn’t want to call multiple streets and go out of a tournament after an hour with a hand they don’t really like. On low boards you can easily have an overpair and on high boards you can easily have a strong top pair. So even opponents who call with 55/76s/Q7s may fold their medium strength stuff too often. And, as previously stated, people typically bet out or raise when they have a really strong hand, so you can easily fold. So you are making a small commitment of 2 to 5 big blinds that gives you the initiative in all hands that you play and a chance to get folds, without even accounting for your good hands.

Some players will try to counter this approach by bluffing at you, which makes logical sense because if you are opening a large percentage, then you have a lot of pretty bad hands that you have to fold. But it is also an extremely risky play because they have to commit a huge percentage of their stack (a relatively small 3-bet to 6 big blinds could be 1/4 of their stack). So you can easily fold your 2bbs most of the time and then shove your good hands. Now they have a huge percentage of their chips committed, sometimes only based on the idea that you never have a hand, which is of course not true. It is difficult to adjust to the approach I am suggesting, apart from playing the same way and trying to take the initiative.

Basically your opponents are always in an uncomfortable situation: either call or raise with a lot of hands, which creates tricky spots or give up on too many pots preflop and on the flop.

My advice is to try out taking a more active approach to opening and betting in general, but especially late in tournaments. This approach has been extremely effective at all levels on Replay, but is most successful at higher stakes (100k+ buy-in) and much greater caution would be needed at lower stakes (20k or less), where you might be better off just getting paid when you have big hands.

The strategies you outlined do work in the med level MTTs, but as you pointed out, you need to be careful. This is especially true late game.

There seems to be an interesting dynamic of late stage MTTs. Once the cash bubble is passed, and especially when the final table is reached, a lot of players adopt a “nothing to lose” attitude and basically go crazy. While this is good for extracting value, it can make bluffing far less effective.

Still, a lot of players haven’t made enough final tables to be very good at it. Many play too tight, and don’t seem to have a good grasp on the changing environment. With the super high blinds and less, generally better players, you can’t afford to wait for aces.

Also, it’s fairly common for everyone at the final table to be short stacked. This happens when the tourney takes too long and the levels are too fast. When this happens, any raise is very likely to trigger one or more shoves, and every shove is likely to get one or more callers. In that environment, “shove and hope” is the only practical strategy.

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Especially with a play-money game, the changing dynamics of these high speed tournaments is the most fun and thought provoking part of Replay. Cash games and deep stack situations require a lot of patience, while late in tournaments you are forced to keep firing and maneuvering while trying not to cripple yourself.

If people are often shoving over any open, then there is a lot less room for creativity, you just need to have a hand and go with it. But I’ve found that even in the 1m buy-in MTT these chippy little raises work well and people do not shove often enough to deter it. Of course you have to be confident post-flop when a 2x open and BB call has already created a huge pot.

So here’s what I am wondering now…

I play the tournaments I play because they generally have much larger fields than the higher buyin ones. This means the blinds are usually way too high by the time we get to the final table.

It seems obvious that a tourney with 100 players will take a lot longer than one with 25 players, but this might not be the case. The 25 players in the higher buyin one are probably a good deal less reckless and more skilled, so maybe these do last longer than I thought. I’m just not sure how these counter-balance each other, (smaller fields v better players)

I would love to get to a final table where the average stack is deep enough to play some actual poker. I totally agree that late stage tourney poker can be a lot of fun, but when it turns into a shove-fest… not so much.

I’ll have to poke around in the finished tournies to see the level durations, field sizes, and total times. Maybe I’ll get out of my rut and try something different.

Even in the high stakes tourneys (1 million), the blinds get pretty high quickly. It usually starts slowly and then accelerates after the first hour. By the final four or so the average stack is usually about 20-30 big blinds I believe. Up to the end I keep making these 2x opens even if stacks are so short that theoretically you should only be shoving. If players aren’t going to adjust correctly, then it reduces risk and allows some postflop maneuvering.

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Yeah, OK. The last one I made the final table, we had like 25 BBs between us once HU.

Are these guys playing scared, as in, playing tournies they can’t really afford? Were they more concerned with laddering than winning outright?

But yeah, that play style works if in the right environment.

The largest factor here is probably the passivity of the player pool. Games are lengthened to the point where everyone is super-short because the population is spending the 1st 6 levels limping. All of the deep-stacked play is muted because of multiway pots. By the time the field is smaller and players start to think about cashing/winning, there is no play left. Its like no one thinks about what’s coming until its there. Since it happens every single game, you’d think it would stop coming as a shock.

Personally, I like larger fields because there are more chips up for grabs to stay ahead of the blinds with. Stacks get shorter up to the middle stages and then all the short stacks start to explode. This gives the surviving players moderately deep stacks again. But if the player pool is going to be super passive all the way through, its going to be hard to reach final tables with enough play left in them.

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There is another side to it though, which is that limped multi-way pots frequently end in car crashes because there is a good chance that multiple players like the board. Sometimes in these Replay tournaments a large percentage of the field busts almost immediately. That leaves the passive players who are afraid to lose.

My theory about why players are so fit or fold late on is that they feel more invested as time goes by and they don’t know how to adjust to shifting table dynamics. Early on everyone goes “hey it’s free chips” and crashes out, but after an hour it seems silly to risk your stack with K3o. That, along with the lack of comfort when playing a wider range of hands, and you have a very weak passive play-style prevailing in these situations instead of the typical calling station dynamic.

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Maybe the best answer would be for Replay to offer tournaments with blind levels that stop growing exponentially and level out or cap at some point.

I’d has some conversation with Badonkidonk about this, and one idea I had was that blinds get ridiculous around past the 500/1000 point in our tournaments, but that really depends on stack depth.

If you take a look at the average stack depth (total chips on all tables divided by the number of players still remaining in the tournament), and base the size of the blinds on that, instead of following a time based progression, usually doubling every N minutes, it could make a big difference in how the strategy takes shape.

The tournament designer could decide what average stack depth is desirable, and set up a system where every N minutes, average stack size is recalculated, and blinds set to be a rounded value approximately equal to the desired stack depth. You can start at 200 or 500 blind stacks, and then progress gradually to a maximum level of whatever you think is conducive to “real poker” - - 50, 20, or however many blind average stacks.

The potential downside is that tournaments could take forever to resolve to a winner if players are very good, or play very tight. But I think the idea is interesting enough that I’d be willing to try it out.

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I think it would be a good idea to slow down blind levels in some tournaments to create room to play poker in the later stages. In one particular 1m chip buy-in the blinds start super slowly (10/20, 15/30, 20/40) and then go straight from 50/100/10 to 100/200/20, so the number of big blinds held by each player is immediately cut in half. This changes the entire dynamic of the tournament from fairly deep to super turbo, which doesn’t seem like the right idea for some of the highest stakes Replay has to offer. At least in the elite stakes they could slow things down to create more opportunities for late game maneuvering.

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@puggywug and @JoeDirk - while I think it would be great to have better structures, my suspicion is that these structures would just prolong the passivity. You’d wind up in the same place, just after a longer period of time.

Tournaments are overwhelmingly populated by people playing for the experience, here and for money. Ring games for money are more about making money but here they are probably mostly played as a way to pass time. Its a recreational perspective as opposed to a professional perspective. I don’t think any changes to the formats will produce the kind of play you want to see because the population is here for recreation, not profit. Whatever you do to lengthen the games will simply prolong the exact same type of behavior you see now. At least that’s my best guess about it.

ADDED: the other problem with longer format games is that they would result in the vast majority of players here losing consistently. The longer the format, the more skill prevails and the less variance matters. With a recreational player pool, there is probably a lot of merit in increasing the variance so that more players have better chances of winning from time to time. The site has to provide an enjoyable experience for the vast majority of the people who come here. It stands to reason that people would not enjoy coming to play games where they have almost no chance of winning on occasion.

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Interesting points. You could be right.

Although, it’s strange, but I think your argument can be summarized as: “Replay players come for recreation, not profit. They won’t enjoy the game if they aren’t winning enough.”

I’m here to try to learn how to play better poker without risking actual money. Which, I think is probably a fool’s errand. Except that I definitely have improved my game measurably. I try to care about the play chips as though they were real money, and I definitely want to win through skill and see my skill improve over time.

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This is the correct analysis.

I got the itch to play poker a few weeks ago and went somewhere else to play because as I’ve stated before, I will not play here at the moment.

I joined some 9-player SnGs that started everyone off with 50 BBs and the BB doubled every 90 seconds. Starting from the BTN in this format, there is a relatively high chance that the BB will be at least 1/4 of your stack when it gets to you. This obviously leads to extremely high variance games. But, we’d still get to the point where the BB was ~10% of all the chips at the table with 5 players left quite frequently. It was silly; I pretty much had to shove any top 15% hand within 5 minutes of the start.

/off-topic/
Of course, the whole site is setup to dis-incentivize people from following good bankroll management in order to get people to pay for chips and whatnot. And then there’s the rampant chip dumping via continuous all-in raising and calling by two people… the person dumping the chips stands-up from the table to automatically lose to the receiver.

So what do I do? I took @love2eattacos advice from this post and started calling the chip dumpers after I reported them. :laughing:

/on-topic/
So anyway, I just wanted to provide an example from the opposite end of the spectrum… where the games are designed to end in 15 minutes or less. Shorten or lengthen the game, it won’t change the outcome unless you change the players. It’s just the friggin way she goes, boys.

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[quote=“Fozman, post:13, topic:17232, full:true”] Shorten or lengthen the game, it won’t change the outcome unless you change the players. It’s just the friggin way she goes, boys.
[/quote]

This could be a bit of a chicken/egg thing.

Or an “if you build it, they will come” thing.

Sometimes strategies evolve to a local maximum and stall rather than continue to optimize to an even higher level of play. That’s fine, but at some point someone will come along and figure out what to do to break through with an approach that successfully can exploit the common approach, and then once that strategy becomes known by enough people, the way the game is played changes, because it has to.

That’s seemingly what this thread is here to do.

I can’t see why this would be a fools errand, especially since you are seeing results. Part of getting better is learning how to beat different types of players. Since the vast majority of players most people will ever play against are recreational, this seems like a decent place to work on that part of the game.

I doubt that this occurs in many parts of the poker world, including here. There are people who exploit the population already but the population is incapable of adjusting. Live low stakes cash games in the US haven’t changed much in a decade+. Same with many tournament venues. If you play some online MTT’s now on cash sites, you will see this clearly. Live players have come over to online because of the lockdowns. Even in real money tournaments, the level of play has gone through the floor as a result of this. Now, this occurs mostly in the lower entry games but its not unusual to see it in the $600 MTTs.

The game doesn’t have to change so long as players can and do. People who can beat micro stakes move up to low stakes. People who can beat most games on Replay either hang out at the top and play with other players like themselves or leave. If the pool was fixed and players could neither enter or leave, then the game would evolve. If the stakes mattered enough, then the game would evolve. Without those conditions, the games tend to stay basically the same but the population turns over - they go broke and leave or they win and leave for more profitable games.

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That “problem” is exactly what I was advocating for, lol. I would expect that people will continue to play passively and extending the blinds would reinforce that rather than change it. Extending the blinds would allow skill to enter the game by adding more postflop situations late in tournaments, allowing better players to win more. I can see how Replay and its player pool would not want that particular outcome, and it would just be a longer time commitment to enter a tournament.

I agree with your next post that the player pool doesn’t evolve. Poker evolves, but higher level thinking isn’t necessary and can even be detrimental. Even the style of Chris Moneymaker from 20 years ago would do well on Replay.

I do think there is a learning value to playing here, in addition to the entertainment value, because it takes practice to consistently beat all types of players, even recreational ones. In my limited experience, low stakes live cash players are on a similar level to high stake replay or online 2NL players, so this is a large population that can be beaten by learning consistent ABC poker. The other potential benefit is the few players at the top of Replay once you beat it. It was a whole new world to go from playing full ring against a school of fish at 50k/100k here to having the bankroll to play heads up or 4 handed with Idiotplayer, Ilovecat, and unranked. I am not sure how good any of the active top players are currently, but at least there is a variety of play styles out there.

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Possibly. In the games I used to play, the high-end e-sports segment would call this a meta shift. Most of the time, when the metagame solidified and became stale it would not shift because there was usually an overpowered game mechanic that was exploited. However, as soon as there was a game balance update to nerf whatever mechanic(s) were meta… all hell broke loose as people/teams innovated to find the new meta.

Long story short, my past experiences tend to agree with @1Warlock regarding the metagame here at Replay. Unless the staff does something significant to change play here, it is unlikely to change at all. I do not think that lengthening tournaments will be a significant enough change… due to the reasons Warlock outlined.

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