Thoughts on my tournament strategy


No, the prize pool is 75,000


I have moved to an excel and while I agree the pro rata chips part may be wrong, Hero is worth 500 instead of 250, meaning Late Registration is favourable.

  1. 37,500 divided equally between all players

49 players get 1/50th of half of prize pool = 750 each
Hero has 5,000. Hero gets 1/50th of half of prize pool = 750
750 x 50 players =37500

  1. 37,500 divided equally by chip stack

49 players have 370,000 chips (375,000 less 5,000 which Hero has), which is 98.67% of chips Therefore they receive 98.67% of 37,500 = 37,000 (we don’t care what the distribution between the players is)
Hero has 5,000 chips which is 1.333% of chips in play
1.333% of 37,500 is 500

49 players get 37,000 and Hero gets 500 = 37,500

I have an idea, lets try it with a smaller number of players.

6 people pay 1,000 to get 1,000 chips

6 more people join, including hero

6 are knocked out, leaving 6 playing for a pool of 12,000

All 6 remaining have EV of 1,000 from the first half of the pool (6,000/6)

Hero has EV of 1/12 of the second half, which is 500 (6,000/12)

The other five have collective EV of 91.6666% of the second half (they have 11/12) of the chips , which would be 5,500

I know this is an extreme scenario, but I think its correct numbers

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In certain situations, I think it is

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Maybe looking at this in 2 extreme cases can shed some light on the problem. Let’s say the starting field is 90, tables are 9 seated, and the top 20% “cash.”

Case 1: You join late, but nobody has busted out yet. Here you will be starting at the average stack, which I would call neutral.

Case 2: Everyone at all 10 tables goes allin every hand. The first hand, 80 people are eliminated. The second hand, we are down to 2 tables, so all but 2 would be eliminated. If one joins at this stage, they will be well below the average stack, but guaranteed at least 3rd place. This is obviously +EV.

We could graph these and all of the possibilities between (IE, 1 busted out, 2 out, etc) and would get some sort of line going from neutral to way +EV. I suspect this line would be straight, but it could have some sort of exponential curve. It doesn’t really matter if we are just assessing whether registering late is +EV in a simple “pass/fail” sense.

This would seem to suggest that registering late IS actually advantageous.

I hate that, if it’s true. Someone please prove me wrong so I can sleep tonight, thanks!

I think this debate about late registration is a really interesting topic, and there are a lot of ways to think about it.

A few points:

  • I think there’s pros and cons to either starting on time or starting late. (I’ll elaborate later.)
  • Depending on your preferred style of play and the strategy you employ, early or late registration may favor you more or less.
  • I don’t think when you enter the tournament matters as much as how well you play.

Rather than try to decide a “winner” between starting on time and starting late, I think it makes more sense to talk about the pros and cons of both approaches. Because chances are, in life sometimes you’ll be running late, and you’ll have to deal with the situation whether it’s better or worse.

Whenever I start to play, I like to play optimistically, bringing a positive attitude, so if I have to play late, I don’t want to be thinking why late entry is not as good as starting on time. I can’t do anything to roll back time and start on time; I might as well focus on whatever strengths there are to late starting, and not dwell on the negatives, other than applying whatever strategy I can to mitigating whatever weaknesses there might be, being aware of them so that I can avoid them.

Basically, I say, “Who cares? You’re here now, so play in the here and now. Play your best game.”

The only real question then is, how does the game change between opening hand and whenever you get dealt your first hand, and should that influence how you play?

Some things to ask:

If you’re starting late, how late do you have to start for it to make a meaningful difference? If you miss the first hand, does that really matter? Probably not. What about the first orbit? The first 10 minutes? The last possible second?

The point I’m making here is: “late” isn’t binary. How late? The less late you are, I would postulate, the less it matters.

Another point: What’s the play like in this tournament? Do we have a lot of wildcats playing crazy poker early, getting eliminated? Is everyone playing tight, conservative poker? The field is rarely if ever going to be uniform, there will be a range of players of varying skill, experience, good players who play with different style, and in tournaments that don’t cost money to enter, probably a decent number of less experienced/less skilled players, also playing a range of styles.

The point I’m making here is: If after the first 10 minutes, hardly any players have been eliminated, and the range between top and bottom stacks hasn’t changed dramatically, the pros/cons of late starting vs on-time starting will be different from a tournament where a significant number of players are already gone at 10 minutes. In SNG play, a 9-seat tournament typically runs right about an hour, no matter what, but I’ve played some where the first player wasn’t eliminated until nearly 30-40 minutes in, and others where 2-3 players are eliminated almost right away.

I would say in a super tight, conservative tournament, the early hands are more important. You want to be in them, to observe the play and see get a read on opponents, and the more hands you have to be able to do that, the better. And the cheaper those hands are to play, the better. Starting late, you miss those hands, and you miss the lowest blind levels, and those are disadvantages in a tournament with this type of character.

In a wild and crazy MTT, with a lot of players busting out quickly, it… depends. Do you stand to benefit from playing with the crazy players, busting them out? Or do you prefer to hang back and avoid getting all-in with the crazies? I think there can be merit to both schools of thought, and it depends on how good you are at getting a good read on those crazy opponents.

If you’re a very good player, maybe you know just when to call and take your chances calling that ridiculous all-in preflop bingo bet, and you can knock out the player and rocket to the top of the leaderboard. But I find that calling an all-in bet preflop is always a gamble. You could call with AA and still get beat by someone with 84o who just happens to luck into 2 Pair while your Aces fail to improve, or get beat because 4 other players all call all-in too, and now you’re in a 5-way pot with AA which doesn’t have the power it does when you’re isolating an opponent.

My experience is that poor play disrupts good play, so you can have solid fundamentals and play smart, and get beat by someone who plays very recklessly and takes stupid chances with their hands. These players tend to bust out early, but before they can do they can knock out a good player on a lucky break, and that player could be you.

Are you comfortable with that?

If so, I guess sign up early and good luck. Maybe you’ll outplay the crazies at your table and knock them out, get all their chips, and take the early lead in the tournament, and then hold onto it for the whole duration and end up on top.

If not, sign up on time and then hang back and watch the crazies take each other out with their ridiculous play, stay out of their way until most of them are gone and the play style settles down, and then start picking them off with your good fundamental play if you still have enough of a stack to do it with. Take the opportunity to watch and learn, and if you happen to have some good hands dealt to you that you can play and win some hands early, do so.

OR, join late. Enter the tournament after most of the craziest players have already exited. Their chips will be in the hands of stronger players, perhaps, but perhaps as well their crazy play will have knocked a few of the good players out as well. And you’ll be somewhere near the middle of the field, with about half of the field well above you and half below. You can beat up on the small stacks with your starting stack, while still avoiding getting into a risky situation with the bigger stacks, until you’ve bullied enough small stacks to turn yourself into a big stack yourself. You can exploit the asymmetry of the stack sizes of the in-progress tournament, whereas in the very beginning the stacks are symmetrical, and you have to earn the asymmetry by prevailing in the very early hands, which you may or may not do. If you join late, you don’t have to prevail – you just start with the asymmetry already created by the other players risking their hands.

The only real downside to the late start, then, that I see, is that you sacrifice the opportunity to be the one who won those chips to create asymmetry in the field. But the trade-off is that you avoid the risk of being bad-beat by poor play from crazy players who can disrupt good play by calling when they shouldn’t, or by shoving bingo-style preflop and putting you in what is in all likelihood going to be a a coin toss situation if you call, and being upset if I get eliminated because I called with good cards and it just didn’t work out my way.

To me, that’s a pretty good trade off, so I don’t mind starting late. I kinda like it.

I also don’t mind starting on time, because I can simply play super tight and avoid a lot of the crazy play anyway, and maybe once in a while I can pick off a bingo better when I get a premium hand. If I’m feeling vulnerable to bad beat/entitlement tilt, or boredom tilt, sitting through a lot of early hands and folding, folding, folding doesn’t seem like a great way to spend 10 minutes, and joining late I can get right in right as the boring/aggravating time is wrapping up.

Either way, I’m playing to outlast the money bubble, trying to make the final table, and playing to win the whole thing, and if I’m playing well I have a very good chance of doing so.

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Supposing late registration allowed you to join a tournament well into the late stages, such that you could buy in and seat yourself at the final table, guaranteeing yourself a money finish returning more than the buy-in. It’d be a sure thing, and a no-brainer to do it. Even if your starting chips was only 1BB, or less, and you were all but certain to get eliminated in the first hand you were forced to post a blind, it’d still be guaranteed money. You might never win with such a super-late entry, and you might find sitting in on one hand, getting forced all-in by the ante or the BB, and eliminated in one hand boring, but from a financial return standpoint, it’d be worth it.

The theoretically latest possible registration would be just before the 2nd place finisher was eliminated. If you could buy in so late that you were guaranteed no worse than a 3rd place finish, and therefore 3rd place money, for the same buy-in that players who entered before the first hand was dealt, you would, ever time.

That’s of course why tournaments don’t allow late registration past the early stage, closing registration after the first few minutes, and well before the money bubble pops. Common sense and fairness requires that registration closes at some point. But I think the imagining an extreme late reg to its logical end helps to show that late registration does confer certain advantages.

So, five early entrants will get an average of (1,100+1000) 2,100 chips, but the hero gets only 1,500 chips. Late entrant has a disadvantage if I am correct.

Yes its positive EV at the expense of the busted out players. But the early entrants will have even better EV getting (750+755) 1505 chips on an average.

You have a point there. May be other seventeen positions are filled by players who hadn’t got the chance to bet or don’t play that way. If everyone play the same style and had bet, percentage could be 67% of the time you reach top 67%. They all bet with same odds and break even. Probably.

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In general, I don’t mind late registration, say for live tournaments or for online ones that are pretty deep. Here, I think its a mixed bag. The games are so shallow that coming in on the 3rd blind level can mean you start with ~50BB. Not horrible but you need to make a move pretty quickly or you’ll be down to 30BB or so. Not a lot of room to play poker at this stack depth.

IMO, the benefits to starting on time outweigh the increased variance that comes with early all-in maniacs. If you have a postflop edge over the field, you want to see as many hands as possible to take advantage of that edge. Its also a good idea to get as much information about your opponents as possible so being there to see what they are doing from the start is very helpful to me. You can also nut-peddle when the blinds are low and perhaps get an early double-up while the field is at its weakest. The other side of the coin is that the variance can be hard to take and many people can get frustrated if they call an all-in with KK only to be crippled or busted by someone who shoved A5 and hit his A.

I think that if you have a game-plan, you can make it work for you either way. Without a gameplan or strategy, I don’t think either option helps or hurts you much.

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“My experience is that poor play disrupts good play, so you can have solid fundamentals and play smart, and get beat by someone who plays very recklessly and takes stupid chances with their hands. These players tend to bust out early, but before they can do they can knock out a good player on a lucky break, and that player could be you.”

Thanks for all the replies but my experience starting is less about all the statistics but more about the quote above. I just began playing here about a month ago and much prefer the MTTs and SNG to ring because I am able to build up bank much quicker. The first 15 minutes of an average 95 player MTT is quite difficult for me and not that enjoyable frankly. Especially the MTTs that allow unlimited reloads. This prompts many a busted player to reload 3000 and go all-in a half dozen times in a row. Sure you can call with a quality hand but now you have 2 or 3 others trying to steal Barney Bingos chips. Craziness begets craziness and it plays with my head and how I want to structure my game. My last four MTTs averaged 85 players and I registered 14 1/2 minutes late and I was ranked 20-25. I finished with two second places, one 9th and 11th. I know the advantages for me is I avoided the crazies, was more focused. I was also the new guy on the table with a fairly full on aggressive play only in position unless the hand is all go. I think I was a little difficult to read. With solid aggressive play it was not that long until I was in the top 5 in all 4 MTTs. For sure the first 15 minutes are not the same game and not the way I want to get accustomed to play so I simply choose to avoid it. I imagine when I move up to higher stakes this will not be as much an issue. Thanks for all the useful feedback and really enjoy playing with all of you.


The biggest part of tournament strategy that I forgot to mention was about being aware of where the bubble line is. The absolute worst thing you can do is make a silly mistake right at the bubble and get knocked out for it. This is a perfect example of what not to do: I’m in the BB with 5/2o and almost no chips left. I thought the bubble was still 10 away so I wasn’t safely in that line by any means. I had a few people limp in and I made 2nd pair on a 9-high flop. The guy who had been min-betting every flop since time began did it again. I can’t call with 2nd pair no kicker and I thought there was a good chance I was good and all he had was overcards or some A-high. I shoved and it turned out he had top set. Oops. Only after the hand did I see that I went out 31st and 30 spots paid.

Enjoy my stupidity:

We’ve played several times and you play very well. Having said that I see you were small stack and looking at the best opportunity to double up. Question is why did you choose that moment with so few outs and likely over cards on turn and river. I am likely missing something but would have stalked out a better statistical play. I see this often and wonder if it is wise chasing a draw to a small pair. Only works for me on folded hands, lol.

Seems little unfair to me. If half the prize pool is shared equally between the players irrespective of their stack size then it should include the players busted out too. 50% (of the prize pool) also need to be formulated. Another point, prizes are distributed based on position not on stack size. Here someone may rake up 90% of the prize.

My thinking is:
If the tournament stalled early everyone gets back their buy-in’s. This is like a cancelled tournament.
If the tournament stalled half way, 50% is shared by all players who participated the tournament, including the players busted. Other 50% is shared based on their position, for the effort they put in playing that much time
If the tournament stalled later stage of the tournament, all 100% is shared based on the position, because the tournament is coming to conclusion stage, lost out player is lost out.

It looks to me a very good strategy. Starting at 20-25 median and going up. Very good performance too reaching prize position in four consecutive tournaments.

From your earlier post asking similar question

Both look to me well above average.

Added: Why I am not able to see your profile. Do you play with different name. Even the hand you posted in another message I don’t see your name.

I refer you to my previous statement about being stupid :slight_smile:

Actually, its not as wildly awful as it looked. I was definitely not playing my best poker and had been card-dead for most of the last 3 tournaments. That’s why I was that short-stacked at this time. For me not to have found a spot to shove before this says something about the truly awful hands I was getting. Still. in this spot I thought there was a good chance I was actually ahead of most of his range with a pair. It was a flop that favored the random hand in the BB because most people are limping in big cards and Ax. If that was what villain had, then I should get some folds and be ahead of any unpaired hand he calls with. It happened that he had top set so the result looks super-bad but the math works against his likely range of hands. I wasn’t chasing anything here - between the fold equity I had (not much but some) and my equity vs his possible range, I think this was a profitable shove. Just didn’t work out this time.

I’m not terribly upset with the play but I’m not happy with my timing. I really thought I was farther from the bubble than I was. Had I noticed we were on the hard bubble, I would have folded to a cash. I got over being afraid to be wrong and looking like a moron a long time ago. IMO, if you don’t ever look like a horses’ rear end in this game, you aren’t trying hard enough.


Very true, should have the great play I made to bust an MTT 23rd,lol

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Another advantage I just thought of in starting very late is you are paired at a table with the lowest stacks ie; lowest range and much less bingo play. Not scientific by any means but last three MTTs I started on time and augered in mid-twenties.

I won the Hijack Tournament tonight with a 12 minutes late start.

Here is the first hand I played, so after one hand I was already in a better position than most of the players.

I struggled most of the way, was never among the leaders, and never held the lead until a few hands from the end. I just kept trying to get one place higher in the ranking until there were no opponents left.

In this hand I was in third place of the three survivors and totally fluked a straight on the river to cripple the long time leader of the tournament when my A 5 offsuit, ran over his JJ.

Tournament play always comes to this. You or your opponent is forced to call an all-in and then fate takes a hand. The key is to always try to be the raiser and never caller. In this case the opponent had folded to my shoves time after time, but with JJ the temptation was too strong, plus if he won the hand I was out and he was assured of at least second place. Of course JJ is a favorite against anything but QQ, KK, or AA, a crapshoot against AK or AQ, but any A, K, or Q has a fighting chance (30) of pulling off a surprise. Over 2 hands JJ is not a favorite to win both times.

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