As most people who have read my comments probably know, for practical purposes I only play tournaments, however for the last three days I have played ring games at 10K/20K and 20K/40K (midrange) levels.
On three successive nights I won 7 million, 11 million, and 6.5 million chips, so a total of 24.5 million. This compares favorably with MTT profits, as I won a MTT that was 2.5 million to enter on Saturday, which was much harder and for less return.
In all cases almost all the winnings came from pots where opponents were stacked, either because their bluffs and semi bluffs were picked off, or because they simply thought they had the best hand when they didn’t.
What I noticed is that MTT vs Ring Games are completely different ball games as far as the playing is concerned.
Ring Games are deadly boring for the most part, because the name of the game is to maintain equilibrium by picking up a number of small pots and then play occasional huge pots in which you hope you will stack an opponent, or preferably two opponents.
In Ring Games players will take much greater chances since if stacked they will instantly rebuy, whereas in a MTT, if you have played for 90 minutes and are on the bubble, you probably don’t want to stake all your chips on an open ended straight semi-bluff against three opponents.
I observed opponents who limp-called every single hand and called every pot down to the river, then bluffed the river. Obviously you could not put them on a range, but you could reraise them on the river with top pair or better. Other opponents frequently shoved the flop with semibluffs or weak top pairs. At first they tended to win a series of pots, but once opponents saw their game they were usually picked off and stacked time after time.
In MTTs it is all about stack strategy. As long as you maintain a stack that can double its way into the leading pack, you are in with a chance, so there is little point in limping with weak hands and dribbling away your chips, especially once the blinds start to escalate.
If you pick up AA there is often an opponent who will call off their whole stack with 22 or KQ, so probably best to go for it all if early in the tournament.
The MTT I play most often is 6-max for 1 million buy-in. Usually you will hit the money places at around the 90 minutes mark. By the end of 2 hours, you may be heads-up.
Stacks start with 5000 chips. In the early stages you can play a bit like a ring game. The key juncture is around the hour mark. Before the 1-hour break the BB is 300 chips, and after the break it is 400 chips. By my estimate to be competitive, you need to have at least 24 BB at the break, which will translate into 18 BB after the break. If behind on stack size at the 300 BB level, I will often try to pull some moves against tight players, or those who limp from the SB every time.
Below this level you cannot play much poker and might as well use preflop shoves with promising hands to maximize preflop fold equity and hope that if called you will double up.
Sometimes this is the time to try to pull off a coup. An early position stack raises who you know is a loose raiser and it is folded to you in the BB. You reraise and early position flat calls. OK, he probably does not have aces or kings, and you are repping AK or a decent pocket pair. Now depending on the flop, you will often have an opportunity to bluff. For instance there are a pair of 5s on the flop. Probably if you shove opponent will be unable to call, because even he does not really believe you have a 5, he may be dominated anyway, and you will win a nice pot and get your stack back into competitive territory. (Even if your 9 8 IS dominated by something like A9 or A8, opponent will not know this and will probably think you have a better ace or a pocket pair higher than 9s.)
I would not try this move with a dominated hand like Ax or Kx. Better with a hand like 98 that is probably not dominated and may hit some kind of draw on the flop and give you are semibluff opportunity. If you hit a monster like 2 pairs or a set on the flop, you may win a huge pot or double up.
Whatever happens, if you reach the end of the 400 chips BB level ten minutes after the break without a competitive stack, your chances of winning will diminish with every round and you need pure luck. Even if you pick up aces, you may only win the blinds if you shove, and yet you cannot really afford to play the hand against two or three larger stacks if you play the old limp-trap move.
- If you study poker books or articles, it is rarely made explicitly clear what kind of game is being played. Most articles seem to refer to heads-up situations in raised pots, and there is relatively little material on playing in multiway pots. If you find book-learned opponents playing in MTTs, there will often be opportunities to take them to the cleaners in key pots as they tend to overvalue hands like AT, AJ. and AQ.
- Most players on RP have little concept of pot odds and will call raises from out of position with non premium hands without having the right odds. This can be exploited.