More luck than skill, really

Had some terrible beats and very early outs in my games today, and yesterday.

Continuing my last hand of last night, where I played AA vs J4s vs 77 and lost to trip 4s…

9-seat SNG: First hand, K9. Flop top pair, 4 opponents in hand. Bet every street, one player calls to the end, river a third King, I’m all-in, two players call. One has J5 and was playing middle 2 pair, the other had K7, and made a full house with a 7 on the board. Out in one hand, better kicker, worse luck.

Another 9-seat SNG: I fold until I take ATs against AJ, pair my Ace, and lose all but 300 of my chips in my first hand. A few hands later, I’m dealt ATs again, shove it, and triple up, pairing the Ten on a board no one else hit. A short time later, I’m in the BB, and muck QTo. Next hand, the SB I have J4o, limp, nobody bets until the river, which hits my 4, I bet it and take back 90 chips. Next time I’m SB, I’m dealt Q2, shove it hoping to buy the blinds, but am called by AQ. Flop hits my Q and 2, and I’m ahead hoping it’ll hold up, but no the Turn and River are 9s, giving us both QQ99 hands, with their Ace kicking my 2, and I’m done.

So, all in all, I played ok cards, and got beat just by a little bit in most of them, for a lot of chips every time.

I gather that since more aggression isn’t really possible in these hands, I need to either tighten more, or just play through it and count on my luck to change. Is there any merit to betting less aggressively? It seems like if I don’t, I’m just leaving room for my opponent to come over the top, and then I either have to call them or else they can bluff me off the hand.

Can’t win without luck. I had been playing really badly recently, just blowing out of tournaments in the early stages left right and center and my chip count had gone down from 2 million to less than a million, then I entered a “high stakes” tournament at 250,000 chips to enter that had 30 entrants, where several of the players were ranked in the low 100s and 200s, and all seemed to be ranked less than 2000.

Well, I got lucky and won double up after double up and after a while I saw I had a chance to squeak into the money (there were five paid places), which I did, and eventually won the whole tournament and took my chip count up to 4 million, double the highest I had ever reached before.

I honestly cannot see that I played any better than when I was losing all the time–except that I won. Perhaps the only difference was that in the final stages I was concentrating pretty hard on the game. I could not see that the higher ranked players with 50 million chip counts were any more skilled than the lower ranks, though perhaps they were more cautious in the early stages.

Well, I just exited 3rd in that 9-seater you were watching me in. Dunno if you saw the hand that killed me, I had A8, raised, big stack re-raised me, I call. He flops into a pair of kings, and just checks, I’m 4-spades to an A-high flush, so just check to the river, and miss the flush. He shoves, and I’m thinking he’s trying to bluff me off the hand, and we both have nothing, but my Ace should out-kick him, but no, he has Kings. Lost all but <BB worth of chips, and was forced all-in the next hand, they both muck and I get 72 in the SB the next hand, but the SB is about 1/3 of my stack anyway, so I just shove it expecting to be beat, and beyond caring at that point, and lose the hand, High Card Jack with his 76 beating my 72. At least I didn’t hit quad 2s, then I would have had to continue playing.

You’re right that most tournaments are driven more by luck than skill. Variance is pretty high in poker, and when you’re playing turbo SnG’s and MTTs that last a few hundred hands max, how lucky you get will be a primary determinant in how you place. That said, over time, better strategies will prevail.

If you’re getting frustrated with the high variance in the tournaments you’re playing, try jumping into some ring games. When players are weak but sucking out on you, you can always rebuy and win back your chips.

Tough luck! I did not see the hand that killed you. At least you made the money and got your stake back. In sit’n’go play, once you are down to 3 players it is largely a shove fest, and obviously you hope opponents will fold preflop, but may need to rely on Lady Luck. Had you raised all-in on that hand, the opponent would have had to put all his chips on the line to call, so he MIGHT have folded if he had Kx. If he had called, it would have been the same result.

Maybe he checked the flop because he was scared, rather than trying to set a trap, or maybe he planned to check-raise all-in if you bet the flop.

This is the problem with being short-stacked relative to the blinds. There is no room for subtle play, so I tend to just shove to benefit from maximum fold equity. An exception might be if I have a small pocket pair, I would try to limp and hit a set on the flop, then try to lure the villain into a bluff.

OK, I took a look at your hand on Replay. You opponent Tio Dudu (Portuguese for Uncle Ed) had been demonstrating a very wide calling range and in fact on this hand he had KT off suit. Had you raised all-in, I suspect that he would not have put all his chips on the line with that hand. (Of course I could be wrong.)

This player seemed to have a pattern of limping or checking preflop, then attacking weak continuation bets with check raises.

See here: I would have reraised all in against both your limpers.

and here: where he bets double the pot on the flop.

I guess part of the reason I favor shoving or folding at this stage of a tournament is that it eliminates bluffing (except me bluffing by shoving, of course) and eliminates the problem of limping in against the Big Blind with an unpaired hand like Ax or KT, not flopping a pair or any draws, and not knowing whether the BB has some kind of playable hand or not. At least if he calls a 2.5 BB raise, he probably has two highish cards, a pocket pair, or suited connectors, and analysis of the flop texture will give some kind of read on what winning hands or draws he might have. If he reraises all-in, then he probably has a large pair, or AK, AQ, or possibly AJ. In any case, he is prepared to put his tournament on the line with that hand.

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everybody gets the same luck…

True, but they don’t all get it at the same time. Patience! Patience!