That was the week that was

It’s been a pretty average week here in Lake City, Florida.

At the beginning of the week my chip stack was in serious need of repair and I was getting ready to go below 10 million.


At the end of the week, renovations were completed:


The tournament results were pretty good and helped by one very large second place prize in the 5-million chip buy in, but there was one thing wrong, which was that I had not won any tournaments at all, just a few second places and a bunch of busts.

However I managed to break that barrier tonight and finally won a 25-player tourney when I got heads up with a single opponent.

Here is the secret of how it was done:

  1. In the early stages, just fold everything unless it is unfoldable. Just try to keep your stack around the starting level, but do not get into any big pots with unpaired hands, as you will mostly miss the flop. Wait for opponents to make mistakes. My earliest break came when I limped in with AJ from the button, and the flop came JJx and an opponent decided to shove with an underpair. I called and won a nice pot.If you don’t get any cards at all, you may occasionally need to attack limpers with a bluff shove from the BB with air. Since you are playing so tight opponents will believe you have bullets or cowboys.

  2. The rest of the time I folded almost everything worse than QQ and limped suited aces up to AJ. I got my butt kicked one time with QQ, but I had KK a couple of times. The first time the player to my left in the BB reraised my raise, but when I shoved he wimped out. I got KK again and this time I limped and got him all in by the river and doubled up.

  3. As the blinds came up, it became more of a shove fest, and I followed the rule that if you have less than 10BB, it is mostly shove or nothing. No limping, no draws. With a really strong hand like AK or KK, I would raise half my stack, and reserve the rest for the flop. Always pay attention to who is in the BB, because that is the hand most likely to call a raise or try to resteal.

  4. Playing the bubble was hell. Really there were 2 bubbles, because there were six seats on the final table, and with seven players left, we were split 3 and 4. I was on the 3 person table. One obvious flaw in the game here is the possibility of collusion. Since our stacks were pretty much equal, we could easily have agreed to just fold all hands until someone busted out on the other table. Eventually after what seemed like a lifetime of three-handed poker someone did bust out on the other table, and then we were 6 with prize money for only four.

  5. If you have a stalemate, it is all a matter of patience. About 6 times in a row the small stack shoved and was called by a bigger stack, and the small stack won, usually on the river. There was some griping about this is the commentary box along the lines of “only on RP”. The moral is never call a shove unless you have an unbeatable hand. On one occasion I shoved with AQ from the button and was called in the BB by KK. Needless to say I aced the river. On another occasion I was in the BB and folded AKo to a shove from a smaller stack, because I had the chip lead, and had I lost I would have been in last place.

  6. I observed as much as possible the rule of always being the aggressor and never the caller. On one occasion I shoved with AK and was called in the BB with AJ and won the hand as neither improved. This is the great strength of AK. If you are up against another unpaired hand, you cannot be dominated, and if neither improves, you win.

  7. Eventually we were down to 4 and all in the money. I was in last place, but the blinds were vast and the lead was changing every hand. Then two hands got into fisticuffs as both had pocket pairs and one was crippled, and we were soon down to 3. Then there was another clash of the titans and there were just two of us.

  1. Now we were heads up with identical stacks. This time I played really patiently with a mixture of raises, folds, and bluffs and maneuvered into a chip lead then pulled the trigger with QT and was called with KJ. Naturally a Q came on the river for me, because it was my turn to win, and it was all over.

For once the villain did not win. So that is how it is done.

Just fold everything when in doubt, and get lucky when it counts. Fold if you have top pair with no kicker and another player is menacing you.

Avoid browsing the Internet while playing. Try not to cook for the kids while playing. Try not to feed the dog while playing. Try not to pay attention to urgent reports from the kids that the dog is trying to resuscitate a dead frog in the bedroom, and you will be alright.

The most powerful move in poker is the fold. I avoided losing numerous pots through this simple maneuver that anyone can do without advanced poker skills.

Hopefully this will help someone, because there is not really much out there telling you how to win tournaments as the blogging and teaching pros don’t want to give away all their secrets.


That’s very much the approach that I won last Sunday’s Badonk’s Foals tournament. Of course, I went out 21st/38 in this week’s, with much the same approach.

In both tournaments, I basically folded my way through the first hour, having broke slightly better than even this week, slightly worse last week. After the hour break, once again I had to pick a hand and shove with it, in order to double up or steal blinds and get to a healthier position.

Last week, when I did it, I won; This week, I did it with KQ, raised 3BB, 1800 chips, hoping to steal, but got called; I flopped top pair, Kings, the pot was already equal to my remaining stack, so I shoved it, and my villain had me with AA.

Last week, I think it was K6s that was my lucky hand, and I had shoved it preflop, and dodged my opponent’s AJ. I went on to win that tournament, never once feeling like I was going to win.

I’m not saying that I’m not a good player, and I’m not saying that it wasn’t my skill that won the game last week. But I didn’t play any worse this week, I actually was doing better at the point when I busted, I shoved on a stronger (made) hand, and for all that I finished 21st, because the hand I picked to play with what looked pretty good cards happened to be the one hand I ran into AA.

Two days ago, I lost with AA vs. QJ. QJ 3! me, I raised them all-in, they called, they flopped two pair, no Ace on the board, no pair on the board, and I lose the hand.

What can you learn from that?

You can’t.

Play enough and if you’re good, you’ll win enough. You won’t win them all.

This is very true. If you win one out of every 10 MTT tournaments, that is phenomenal. You have got to have luck and lots of it, and let’s be honest, the quality of opponents is not very good on RP because most people are just playing as a pastime, not so much to win, as to enjoy themselves and win some good pots with great flops, so just staying out of hands can be a good strategy until half the players are eliminated and the survivors are playing a bit tighter.

In the 1-million buy-in games I see players on the final table or winning tournaments and think they must be pretty good players, then the next time I see them they are the first to be knocked out.

Remember that an underpair versus two overcards is slightly over 50%, but the odds of an underpair beating two overcards three times in a row is about the same as the odds of a pocket pair making a set on the flop. The lesson therefore is never get into a horserace with a larger stack or even a stack more than half the size of yours, unless you have no choice and it is necessary to win the tournament. With AA or KK you have better odds. Horseraces against smaller stacks, on the other hand, will give you some opportunity to continue if you are beaten, unless a larger stack comes in over the top.

Sometimes when desperate it is better to shove with a hand like 8 6, which is less likely to be dominated by a caller than something like KQ, KJ, QT, or KT. You do not want to have your QT up against AT.

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