MTTS vs Ring Games

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.


  1. 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.
  1. 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.

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.


LOL. That was a freaky hand, and you were stacked thanks to your super-fishy play!

There was a limp-limp, putting 70,000 in the pot and then you tried to steal the pot preflop with a weakish hand by putting in a 7.5 BB raise. To your horror, you had 3 callers. You don’t want to be in that situation with A T, because what hands will call you there? AK,AQ, AJ, probably not AT, AA, KK, QQ, JJ (maybe) and AK and AQ (probably).

However, by a remarkable fluke, a 1.3% chance, you flopped a straight, albeit on a very dangerous board that hit the ranges of all 3 of your opponents. At this point you tried to slow play your straight by putting in a tiny 20% of pot bet that gave everyone great odds to call instead of trying to take the pot down then and there. It looked like you were making a defensive bet so as to see another card on the turn.

Then the King came on the turn. With top set, top kicker, I needed to take the pot down now and not give anyone a chance to suck out with a straight on the river if a 9 fell. Actually I put you on a pair of tens, because that was pretty much what you had represented preflop–a hand that would prefer to take the pot right away and not see a flop with overcards.

I shoved knowing that if you had the open ended straight draw with a pair of Tens, the Ace was not an out for you. I considered AT, but did not think that either of your bets had represented AT. With me shoving on the turn, if I had KK, KJ, KQ, QQ, or JJ, then you were toast, but you called anyway. You were ahead, but I had 10 outs on the river and hit one of them. Unfortunately the pot was split with the third player who also had a K and a draw to the broadway.

At this point you tried to slow play your straight by putting in a tiny 20% of pot bet that gave everyone great odds to call instead of trying to take the pot down then and there. It looked like you were making a defensive bet so as to see another card on the turn.

Which hand replay did you watch? I deliberately bet 2x pot postflop knowing the cards hit the range you and Ann would call a 7.5bb open with, knowing both of you were never folding and possibly raising in many scenarios. The king on the turn was a dream card for me. I wasn’t worried about a FH at all, any holding that would have filled up on the turn would have raised the flop.

My 7.5bb open after two limps is slightly higher than standard sizing but definitely not into fishy territory. I had some playability given position and a decent ace, so I wasn’t in terrible shape if I was called. My estimation from the table dynamic was I had a high chance of getting this semi-bluff though. Actually I like everything I did in that hand.

The only fishy play is your donk bet shove on the turn. As played Ann probably had a 10, and wouldn’t fold given her stack size and pot odds after I call. But what did you hope I would do? A decent player probably finds a fold with AA. Any other pocket pair without a set is folding. Any player worth their salt is going to have a trouble chasing a straight draw on that scary of a board especially once its paired. The only hands you were getting were getting a call from were JJ, QQ, AK or in some rare situation A10.

I find it interesting you can assign TT to my range given the postflop action. I’m a loose player but do you ever see me betting 2x pot into two opponents with a draw on that scary of a board. Holding TT I would also be mindful of card removal, knowing its very likely one of you has an ace in your hand.


Studies have shown that there are vast differences in the players as well as differences in the game. One such study, done by a really impressive university, commissioned a highly under-rated artist to help us lay persons visualize these differences.

Obviously, the cash game player is on the left as viewed, and the MTT player is on the right. As we can clearly see, the MTT player is just way cooler, to be honest.


MTT players frequently wear wife beaters and wear sunglasses and hats indoors, probably so as to protect their bald heads from the TV lights.


Yes, I misread the size of your flop bet by one decimal point. That is what comes from being 101 years old.

Anyway, I managed to pick up another 14 mill tonight.

Another difference in ring games is that stack size makes a difference. I started tonight with 100 BB, but there was an opponent with 500BB who was difficult to play against. I eventually chipped away at the opponent, who then left the table and I was able to progress much better.

Here is a hand that is more typical of how you win big pots in Ring Games. Just missed a royal flush. (In the same game I also had a straight flush, but didn’t win many chips with it.)

MTT is more fun to play,not so much bingo! Pot odds is importent and it much easier to learn your opponents if you play MMT! Thank you for your posts BluffaloKing! Poker is a beautiful game!!

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We shall see during the upcoming Replay Team Challenge 2022 :+1:t2:

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I assume your awkward and small preflop raise was a calculated move to lead your opponents into believing you have no idea how to play.

Your postflop shove is appropriate, given the amount of strength pet77’s raise communicates. Having the nut flush blocker is huge as it eliminates any reasonable hand that he could be bluffing with, increasing the likelyhood of a call.

Though I would file this hand under coolers, I don’t think there was any advanced poker happening. Congrats on winning the hand though.

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What I like about ring games:

  • There are more chips to be won in ring games
  • While there is still plenty of volatility in ring games, every single hand is like a full tournament, capable of providing a return on investment, so if you are a winning player, you will generally not need to wait as long for the chips to tell the same story
  • There is more deep stacked play, creating more possible decision points across more streets
  • Assuming you are adequately banked for the table you are playing on, you can make absolutely any play you think is even slightly plus EV, without needing to manage volatility so much

What I like about tournaments:

  • Trying to stay alive and outlast everyone else is kind of a thrill; only one player avoids losing all of their chips
  • You need to make more frequent adjustments reflecting your stack size, and the stack size of your opponents, along with considering how the value of chips you win is lower than the value of chips you lose (losing a given fraction of your stack generally reduces your winnings more than increasing your stack by the same fraction increases your winnings)
  • After reading the authoritative studies mentioned by @SunPowerGuru, I feel a strong need to be more cool also; I wasn’t too pleased with my snapshot on the left

Exactly! Such moves are extremely important. Sometimes I will three bet an opening raise with complete trash. On these occasions I either hit a miracle flop and stack the opponent, or more likely I just fold, or the pot gets checked down to the river so that opponent can see that I am a complete lunatic. Either way, it puts them off their game and deters them from bluffing.

In this particular case, I just wanted to get some more money in the pot, as both opponents would be forced to call. WIth 80k each the total pot in a 3-way hand would be 240K, but with 120K each, the total pot would be 360K, so a half pot continuation bet on the flop would be 180K vs 120K. The lack of a 4-bet makes AA and KK particularly unlikely, which is always nice to know.

When you are the big stack at the table, you always want to take opponents out of their comfort zone, so that it is harder for them to call a continuation bet.

A lot of really big pots are flush vs 2 pairs. A flush is the enemy of 2 pairs, but 2 pairs can become a boat, which sinks a flush. 2 pairs are always dangerous. You make 2 pairs on the flop with QT, but your opponent with KJ may complete a straight so you bet large on the flop to price out draws and if this becomes unglued, you may get stacked. Or your lower pair gets counterfeited.

I think this is one of the funniest things I have read in some time, well done. :slight_smile:

Yes, good points. If you just want to win as many chips as possible, then ring games are the way to go. But with tournaments there is a beginning and an end.

And sometimes these both happen on the same hand.


Happened to me recently. On the first hand I had KQ and flopped 2 pairs when the flop came KQ2. Opponent had AA and he shoved the flop, and another 2 came on the river. He had 8 outs on the river. C’est la vie.


A T is a terrible hand. This is why.

  1. A T is dominated by AK, AQ, AJ, AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, so a big raise PF is likely to attract interest predominantly from these hands.
  2. Usually the best you can hope for is that the flop comes T high, because with A high, you may be in jeopardy from AK, AQ, AJ, and Ax where x = the value of the two other cards on the flop. So there are 5 aces that are beating you, and you are even-steven with AT.
  3. If you flop a straight draw, the only draws that use both your cards are a gutshot, giving you lousy odds to call any flop bet with your gutshot plus one overcard, that may not be valid.
  4. AT does have some high card value and plays much better in situations like SB vs BB, where the odds are that you are starting ahead, simply because if neither player makes a pair, you will be ahead at the river.
  5. AT is OK for a preflop bluff from the blinds in an unraised pot as the likelihood of your hand being dominated is now much less.

At a table of mostly TAG players I agree fully. This was a decision based on my observations about these players, an exploit if you like. Ann called with K10o for example.

I find overcalling with AKo OOP more questionable than my original open. Even more so with two players left to act. This is a clear raise with strong card removal (you have AA and KK blocked) and a good drawing hand.

I do not care too much for AK. A lot of players on RP lose a lot of chips with this hand, part of the reason being that they play it the same as if it were AA, which it is not.

Yes, it is a powerful hand heads-up, because:

  1. If you make a pair before the river, opponent must make 2 pairs or better, or have AA or KK.
  2. If neither AK nor other unpaired hand make a pair by the river, AK is always ahead. This happens about 25% of the time when opponent starts with an unpaired hand, but more frequently if opponent has a dominated hand, for example A T or K T, then AK is about 75% to win by the river.
  3. AK suited is a suited ace and if the board flushes then you may win a big pot. A nut flush draw plus two overcards is a powerful drawing hand at the flop.

On the other hand

  1. It does not have that much chance of making a straight. It cannot flop an open ended straight draw, only a gutshot.
  2. It starts behind any pocket pair.
  3. It has a 47% chance of making a pair by the river. however this is misleading. If you do not flop a pair with AK, your chances of making a pair by the river are only about 6.75% on the turn, and about the same percentage on the river, so you will rarely have the odds to call a flop bet based simply on your two overcards.

So AK is a great hand to play all in against a smaller stack, where it is certain that 5 cards will be dealt. It rapidly loses value if it misses the flop, and particularly if there are more than 2 players in the pot on the flop. Now the odds are against AK. However it may be used as a semibluffing hand with some outs.

To me, the important thing about playing AK is that you don’t make it too obvious to opponents that you have AK, which means you have to play it the same as AJ at least some of the time, so that when the flop comes J high, your continuation bet with AK has some credibility.

You have 6 outs to make a pair on the next card, which is closer to 12%.

If you do make a pair, it will always be top pair and top kicker, straights will always be the nut straight, as will flushes. (if you’re suited)

AK is a drawing hand, and I don’t mind more people in the pot. Yeah, this is more dangerous, but it means I will usually be getting much better direct pot odds if I see something worth chasing.