Ring games vs MTTs

I have played nearly all my poker on RP on either sit and go games or (mostly) in multi table tournaments, but just recently I have dabbled my toe in ring games.

I don’t think most people realize that these are two different games and that the conventional wisdom that holds for one version of the game may not be true for the other. It is almost like the difference between baseball and softball, or limited over white ball cricket vs red ball cricket, or rugby vs soccer.

For example with hands like AK, the conventional wisdom in ring games is that this hand is highly EV+ and should be played for a large pot at all times, which will win in the long run.

In MTTs however, AK is still a very good hand, but many, many factors have to be taken into account, for example it plays quite differently in the early rounds with low blinds, and on the final table of a MTT.

In the early rounds of a tournament it can be difficult to get one on one against an opponent. Even if you bet 5 or 10 BBs preflop you may get 2 or 3 or even more callers. If you shove preflop, you will either win a tiny pot preflop, or you will tend to be called by pocket pairs who are overdogs to you. If the pocket pair is something like TT and has the same suits as you, he will be a big overdog to you.

Then the flop comes and it misses you. Now what? Any bet large enough to drive off opponents (semibluff) will leave you facing elimination or crippled if you don’t win the pot.

So I have come to the conclusion that in the early stages of MTTs it may be best to limp this hand or just make a small preflop raise that may knock out the small blind, and then see how the flop looks. You will still win some big pots sometimes, and the beauty is that opponents will rarely put you on AK and may call value bets with inferior Aces or Kings.

Yesterday I played in a 1-million chip entry tournament and actually folded AQ preflop in the BB rather than call a raise from a stack less than half the size of mine, because losing the hand would leave me with a large chip loss if I did not win the pot and I would prefer to use the heft of my stack elsewhere to bully opponents. With AQ I would always prefer to raise from position and try to knock down the pot at the flop. If this hand is hit by the flop, opponents who want to teach me a lesson about making continuation bets when have nothing may get a nasty shock.

You may or may not like this play, but I did go on to win the tournament.

In tournaments, since you are nearly always facing elimination or dismemberment, it is always a question of two steps forward and one step back. I would much rather consistently nag and bully other players who don’t fight back than take on opponents head to head in so-called horse races unless I know that the odds must be in my favor.

After the hand that follows there were still 133 hands to the end of the tournament, but it was important, as you will see, as I also won 5 of the next 9 pots on an 8 player table.


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AK is a very strong premium hand in NLTHE and should be played as such regardless of the format, ring, mtt or sng.

AQ fold in the BB is terrible, you’re losing a ton of value by folding here.

Your analysis/reasoning is mostly results oriented.

I don’t know what your reasoning for posting AA > KK hand is… this is just a super standard gii pre flop spot on 27 bb effective stacks.

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Yes, but you only have a one in three chance of pairing AQ on the flop and if you miss, most 2/3 of the time you will end out of position and having to risk a lot more chips to see if you opponent wants to make a fight of it, and may end up in a position something like this.

What you say may well be the best line against expert players, who know how to fold, but here on RP players will take any pair down to the river.

Ummm, show me the quote where I said you have to call pre from the BB with AQ and go all the way to the river. You can fold post flop my man, you don’t have to go broke with it. AQ is going to be the best hand in this spot quite often. You could call pre getting a pretty decent price to do so but a 3! is never wrong unless you have very very specific exploitative reads on this particular V to which no one in the forum would know unless you told us.

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Vs a 15BB stack opening 4x from the CO, AQo in the BB is a no-brainer 3-bet shove (assuming a somewhat normal opening range). As you said, calling OOP is going to result in you folding most flops. You will be folding way too much equity if that is your approach. AQo does more than fine vs villains calling range and needs to see all 5 cards to fully realize its equity. Overlay the equity if called with the fold-equity the shove produces and unless villain is only opening QQ+, AK, a shove is by far the most profitable play you can make here.

ADDED: @dayman - I was typing this as you posted so its a bit redundant. The 3! shove is far and away the best play here without any specific reads. I don’t really like a call vs a 4x open from a CO range.

We all would but tournaments have limited durations and we generally cannot pass up highly profitable spots and still expect to do well. If the pool is so weak that you can pass on situations like this one, then you can pretty much do anything you want and be fine. Vs no player who I had even the slightest respect for would I make this fold.


Agree 100%… I’m shoving always. I know it’s not productive or good for the discussion, but I can’t help catching myself walking on egg shells in these forums… there’s a lot of sensitivity here.


Back on the topic of the differences between ring games and MTT’s - if we ignore ICM and FGS theories, almost all the differences are encompassed by varying stack depths and the introduction of antes. The early stages of a tournament play very much like a no-ante ring game. As stacks get shorter and antes are introduced, ranges diverge dramatically from ring games. Relative hand strengths that are good for stacks change and become far more weighted to strong pairs at lower SPRs. Stealing blinds becomes essential.

Good cash game players tend to do well in the early stages of tournaments. Good tournament players tend to take over the game once stacks are below 50BB. Very good tournament players adjust their ranges and opening sizes as stack depths change. Great tournament players can incorporate rejamming strategies at <30BB as they understand the power of overlaying fold equity and raw equity. Elite tournament players can manipulate stacks to force the actions most beneficial to themselves and split their ranges.

I agree that the formats require different strategies and skills but maybe not in the way many people think. If someone is having trouble navigating any part of a tournament, the best thing they can do is study the game at those stack depths. There is no need to raise to 8-10BB in either a ring game or a tournament if you are playing robust ranges by position. Stick to a standard opening size, develop postflop skills / board reading abilities and you’ll do better than most.


Sure it is, but it is just interesting because it is one of those archetypal hands where a player (my opponent in this case) did nothing wrong but was eliminated out of the money a few hands later, having been in a good potential winning position.

Probably no one in the world other than Daniel Negreanu would have folded the KK here, and yet everything in the hand suggested that he could be up against AA, with AK being a less likely due to the blockers.

Sometimes I will MekonKing, furthermore I agree with you on your fold of AQ. Sometimes the posistion is just all wrong, to make a standard play.

Both Dayman and Warlock are way above me in skills, you are above as well MekonKing, but I dont see them playing MTTs or Promotions with set # of MTTs.

Dayman and Warlock are basically in the raise/fold camp. Mainly because all they do play is Rings. Which brings us to … Rings vs MTTs/(SnGs).

Ring games players maximize profit on a per hand basis.
Tourny players maximize profit over all the hands.

Ring Games are also basically “unlim rebuys” to a Tourny player.

Case in point, earlier I made “the right play” as most ppl would say but shot myself in the foot. Not only did I bust out against the 1 hand that I couldn’t beat, but I busted out 2 minutes before all the level 3 rejects are ejected for not playing… costing me that many more places in T-pts toward the current WG promotion.

The correct play was not to play any big hands untill after those ppl were removed from play. If that meant I should fold a premium hand, so be it. Even in a Ring Promotion, losing 1 hand really won’t make/break a Promo… but going out super early in a MTT where there’s only 6 to score pts in, really hurts my chances to win that Promo. Its called Bigger picture thinking. I think that is why you folded AQ, the bigger picture.

If not playing the next 3 hands = a 95% chance I cash… then I don’t care if get AA, I shouldn’t play the next 3 hands. Period !!

MekonKing, this is also why its important to clarify what kind of game a player is playing when they come here and ask for advise. Ring =/= Tourny.

Sure, not very often… are you folding AQ or even AA, but to say “never” or “always” is not a good plan of action. Especially when V usually re-raises any raise of his raise. Effectively raise’n, means either you’re prolly gonna be all in or you will have to pay his all in. Losing this hand in a non rebuy MTT can cripple you.


I can’t say that I give two hoots about sensitivity. I’m not particularly bothered by a lack of knowledge or faulty logic either. This is a place to discuss with and learn from each other. I’m learning all the time from people far better at this game than I am. I appreciate the learning process rather than resenting the fact that I may have been wrong in my approach or application. Its the statements made with the utter certainty only the willfully ignorant can muster that get to me. Thankfully, those are not nearly as frequent as the genuinely constructive conversations that go on here.

Unrelated to the above comments:

I can’t speak for @dayman but I play both cash games and tournaments. Most of my background is in cash games but I’ve spent years studying and playing tournaments now. I do not confuse the 2 games or strategies and when I post, I try to make clear which format I am referring to. If I have not made that clear in certain instances, that is my bad. I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

There are valid reasons for deviating from standard play but those reasons should be presented for review - if the object is to discuss the play and not just to post for the sake of hearing oneself speak. Otherwise the post is about as constructive as posting a picture of your breakfast. I’m sure it was wonderful and meant a great deal to whoever posts it but no one else cares.


I mean this is just a fantastic post, you’re mental game is on point Warlock. I’ll just sat I appreciate you posting here, thank you. The way you articulate your thoughts almost never fails to leave me thinking, I believe every time I have interaction with you in these forums I leave with a better mindset and way of approaching the game/study/thought processes.


Thanks. I try.

Here’s a video with a guy I’ve been studying with, Michael Acevedo. He assisted with the development of PioSolver. The few hours of direct interaction I’ve had with him were amazingly instructive and helpful. His book, Modern Poker Theory is a must read for people trying to incorporate GTO strategies into their games. I call him GTO-Yoda but he has integrated GTO based strategies into real life play. In this video he’s schooling an old-style live poker player, Jonathan Little. Little has a great resume and is a fine coach for low stakes live players. Acevedo is trying to bring him up to speed on how the game is played online and at very high levels live.

This is hard to understand but 100% worth watching if anyone wants to take a peek into how high-level pros approach the game. Its not often you get to hear from the guy that the pros go to for their instruction. It doesn’t matter if any of it applies directly to the games we are playing. What matters is the thought process. There is so much here that can been adjusted to fit whatever game we happen to be playing at the time.


I watched a bit of it. It looks interesting butI think I would prefer the book as his speech and intonation is pretty hard to follow with his English-as-a-second-language accent, especially so since he speaks very quickly.

I have not seen this yet, assuming it’s a fairly new video. Anything by/with Acevedo is going to be on my list of vids to watch. Thanks Warlock.

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This may be better content for you - German accent but pretty east to understand. Bencb also uses GTO as the foundation but advocates deviating significantly from the GTO solutions because of the player pool. He’s awesome for MTT strategies if you want to look at his free content on YouTube:

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