I was talking with a friend yesterday – one that doesn’t play poker – and I found myself having to defend my losing some 50 tournaments since my last big win. I had to explain my 156% ROI, and lecture on how the long term is what’s important. You see – I won $25,000 playing online poker last year, by playing mostly $10-$30 tournaments, but all she saw was the fact that I lost $540 back in a month.
Having this conversation made me realize that her erroneous outlook is actually all too common, especially among today’s amateur no-limit players. And when I say amateur, believe it or not, I’m probably talking to myself more than anybody. I used to be one of those players – a clueless know-it-all with an above-average poker IQ. After years of this, I began to understand things very well, and I could generally beat any opponent at any level. However, I still struggled with sit and go match ups. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my game, so I set out to find what it was I was doing wrong.
The first thing I knew I missed was the importance of patience. Daniel Negreanu puts it this way: “In poker you are broke only at the moment you become fully conscious of what you are doing.” Pocket Aces get cracked, and you lose. That fact should not influence my decision to shove my chips into the middle with those other two hole cards.
The realization that poker is a game of incomplete information led me to another venerable poker principle: to expect an opponent to do what you expect them to do. If you expect your opponent to fold their Q-J off suit, and they fold, you haven’t made a bad decision. Their Q-J is better than your A-Q, so it’s just expected. So, my first big break came when I became a better player both in terms of these key factors.
The first big break also introduced me to the concept of “outs”. Outs are simply the cards left in the deck that can give you the superior hand. quickly separated from your hand, outs are valued by their utility in creating a better hand. I realized that earning more chips with weaker hands was the second big poker concept I had to learn.
Overtime, I found myself playing better in both limit and no limit games. In the process, I found I liked to mix it up, and my opponents didn’t know what I was doing. This is the essence of successful tournament pokerrepublik: switching gears, the play style to another, at times. Even while folding, you are not a sitting duck, because you are announcing to your opponents that you have nothing — a valuable secret against aggressive players, and very important against calling stations.
Once you become familiar with the concept of profitable tournaments and you start removing your 1956 Kent Rules poker decisions from your starting criteria, you are one step closer to tournament success.