It seems in the last few weeks I’ve noticed that I am much better in tournaments than ring games. If I’m in a tournament there is a good chance I can at least cash. But in ring games I seem to lose more than I win. Are there any common mistakes that I am making? What changes should I be making in play between tournaments and ring games?
One of the big disadvantages to ring games, Is that you from the moment it starts till each person leave including yourself, You are with the same players, this give each of you a very long time to have very good reads on each other, You will usually have a couple of all in players and 1 will leave early and 1 will amass a good size stack and then will coast with just a few big bets until he/she is in the money, And people will always play that person differently because they saw the big win early and classified him/her (at least subconsciously) as a solid player, it may or may not be true. You get some of your best read in online poker from the low blind/bets till around 15-25 minuets, even if you don’t know you are getting reads you end up playing a certain way.
One of the big advantages to tournaments is the change of scenery, You can get moved to a table, and others are joining your table, this makes it harder to read how everyone plays, when you are the one moved, people didn’t accumulate info on your early play nor did you on them when they join your table. But the more often you play with same player the more info you have on each other. I would (after having you knock me out tonight) encourage you to mix up several times throughout a ring game, and maybe just a splash in a tourney, after all if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, but you can tighten a bolt or two. Enjoy Randolph :)
Ring Games seem to favor, or if not favor, then are more forgiving of, poor play. Poor play can disrupt good play.
If you’re ahead in a hand, and you make an appropriate sized bet that someone on a draw should fold to, the poor player chasing the draw will occasionally suck out, hitting their draw with a lucky river card, and take a lot of chips from you. Players who don’t understand EV will make these plays. They’re improbable, they’re dramatic, and they’re exciting, all of which reinforces them in the minds of an inexperienced/bad player.
In a Tournament, there’s no re-buy once you’re busted, so poor play gets you out of the game sooner rather than later, and you don’t have to worry about your good play being disrupted by a poor playing not responding to your bets as you’d expect them to.
In a RG table, the bad player can rebuy, and this enables them to survive their poor play, continue to stay at the table, and eventually hit a hand.
The other type of player, good players, can hang out at a RG table as long as need be until they hit a monster hand, and play it effectively. This is because the blinds never increase. You can fold a long, long time, with the low blinds and wait for Aces and Kings.
Combine the two types of players at a RG: a competent player patiently waiting on their monster hand to come, and a poor player disrupting good play with ill-advised calls that sometimes go their way, and you have a lot more variability at a RG table.
Tournaments have a certain amount of this variability in the early phase, but this is survivable if you’re patient, and fold until the field thins out and the good players still in the tournament settle down to play a more standard game. Or, if you’re lucky enough to hit a great hand in the early phase you can take out a poor player hoping their loose, aggressive betting will buy them pots and get them to the top of the leaderboard, and get there yourself.
On top of this, every chip you put in the middle of an RG table is a real chip from your bankroll. This means you can go up or down a lot in a short amount of time. In a Tournament, your buy-in will be somewhere around 7500-50000 chips at mid-stakes, and that will put you into a tournament which, if you last until the final table, will be a 1-2 hour event. In a RG table, you can get 25000+ chips in the middle in one hand. This magnifies your losses and gains in RG play, but you’ll probably feel the losses a lot more than you’ll feel the gains.
I strongly disagree with the “ring games favor poor play” comment. While it is true that players can easily rebuy after going all-in, there are no antes forcing you to play more hands, the blinds don’t go up, and therefore you can comfortably pick your spots, which makes up for a lot more strategy and less luck than in a tournament, especially tournaments as fast-paced as the ones on this site (and I’m not complaining, because it makes sense for them to be that way; otherwise we’d be playing for too many hours). Still, it is true that if you have a big enough bankroll, you can have an edge in a ring game.
I agree with the comment about making better reads in a ring game, but I think the strongest factor that makes the difference between the two is the pressure to play many hands and just try to get lucky in tournaments.
Maybe it’d be more accurate to say that the tournament play structure punishes poor play more, since once you’re eliminated you can’t buy back in.
(Which, that’s not even true anymore, as RPP recently introduced some tournaments that do have a re-buy. But that’s beside the point.)
I’m willing to re-visit my opinion that RG play tends to be poor. What I observe there when I have gone to a RG table is that players generally ignore the blind structure entirely, and size their bets more to their stack than anything. Usually someone who opens opens BIG, and by big I mean like 10-20BB. And then they STILL get 3-4 calls, and by the time we get to the river there’s 2-3 players all-in. Nobody knows when to fold, bluffing is impossible, and to me that’s not good poker being played. It’s also reasonably common for players to immediately shove as their open bet, or to shove as their only bet at all, the old “bingo” play. Or for a new player to plonk down and immediately shove their first hand, without getting any read of the table.
Obviously, I don’t monitor every RG table, but this style of play seems to be prevalent at every table I’ve watched or sat at in the last however many times I’ve gone to look. Which hasn’t been very often lately, since I’m playing more MTT and SNG than anything anymore.
It’s true that you can patiently wait for a hand in RG and usually get a good payoff for it, but sitting and folding for an hour, bleeding out the blinds once an orbit, until you hit AA KK and then shoving it and praying it holds up may pay off, but it isn’t very enjoyable. I guess if it makes you chips in the long run it’s good poker, but to me it’s just exploiting bad play through very conservative good play. The bad play that pervades at the RG table precludes playing a much wider range than AA AK KK. And then when you do have it, about half the time you’re 3-4 handed and someone will hit 2 pair with 86 or 74, and your Aces won’t improve, and you’ll be out 125,000 chips just like that.
I don’t mean specifically waiting for premium hands pre-flop, but more like trying to play good poker. I do see your point, though, and a lot of people play so loose it takes away the enjoyment. If they’re playing like that, the only reasonable option would be to wait for a monster and shove, like you say. When I’m at a table like that, I usually just leave and search for a better one. I still think a tournament involves way too much luck to be taken seriously.