At the time of this writing, there is no one on the road, very few people in the gym, and almost no one playing live poker. That’s because we are in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Poker optimists say it’s good because now online poker can take off again. Poker pessimists say it’s terrible because live poker is real poker, where you can get live reads, meet new friends, and network.
MY POKER WORLD OPINION
I’m generally an optimist, but I think live poker is incredibly important for poker in general. I think poker is at its best when both live and online poker are flourishing.
When you walk through a casino at a WSOP Circuit event and people see you for the first time on the trip, they say, “Hey, Tyler.” Or enter your name there. Poker people know that only one hello is required for the trip, which is great. You feel welcomed but not annoyed.
Or you could be at a RunGood stop and have a few drinks with other players and/or the RunGood crew. Either way, you’re going to feel welcomed.
Maybe you’re just playing traditional poker games at Harrah’s Cherokee. Everyone here is friendly. I’m mentioning it because it’s possibly the friendliest poker room I have played in. Horseshoe Tunica is right up there as well, including traditional poker games when no poker tournament series is running.
Basically, I’m trying to say that live poker feels good, but I’m not talking about the cards. I’m talking about the people. If you only play online, then you’re always behind a screen. This obviously isn’t interactive, and it’s definitely not healthy. However, the online diehards will disagree. That’s cool. I respect your opinion.
I wanted to write about current global conditions because it’s possible, if not likely, that someone reads this years from now. I wonder how they will view it. Will they read it and say, “Wow, people really panicked,” or “Glad that went away fast,” or “That was the beginning of the end. There was no war, starvation, and martial law prior to that.” In my opinion, it will be solved, but remember, I’m an optimist.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
As far as poker strategy goes and “Getting in the Money”, I wanted to write about live and online poker because they are a little different in this regard. Live poker tournaments and online poker tournaments are different animals. There are many reasons for this, but the number one reason is speed.
And, by the way, everything you read below will relate to NL Texas Hold’em Poker, not PLO. At the current time, I have no right to write anything about PLO. I just played in a PLO tournament at RunGood Horseshoe Tunica and played the worst poker of my life.
I misread my hand twice and busted on Level 2. It was pretty embarrassing. I lost with a full house to a bigger full house, which played a huge role in my demise in this tournament, but it wouldn’t have mattered because I was playing almost every hand.
Even in PLO, this is a recipe for poker tournament death. We do not like poker tournament death. We strive for quality poker play where we are patient and look for good spots.
In Texas Hold’em Poker tournaments, I played two events and went deep in both but busted in bubble territory. These were large fields. During my trip to Vegas just prior, when I was writing Vegas Daily I: Tyler vs. Stuart, I had two cashes in ten attempts with one of them being a heads-up chop.
I have been told by many people that I go deep often on one bullet and that I am too hard on myself just because I haven’t had any big cashes recently. This is because I’m waiting to get to the financing stage of the movie and we’re still making deals with APAT.
As far as the movie goes–The Dark Side of the Felt–we might have just found a solution for Curls. This should be written into the script within the next month. We will then have to do an 11th edit and hope that it’s a final edit, but it probably won’t be.
I do know that the Producer rented out his home in Los Angeles for a year and rented an RV so he can film The Dark Side of the Felt and another movie (starring Kevin Hart via The Rock’s production company) over the next year. So, it shouldn’t be too much longer. Unless he panics due to the Coronavirus.
As far as APAT goes, the Coronavirus would appear to be a huge setback, but I see it as a time to strike and make deals while everyone else is backing off and in fear of what the future holds. This is a good time for us to steal market share.
TOO HARD ON MYSELF
This all relates to me overreacting to not having any big cashes recently, which then relates to me contemplating whether I have a right or not to write these articles. I must be overreacting to this as well because I recently had dozens of people tell me that they love reading these articles, and many of these people are respected pros.
That group, the respected pros, loves seeing a different viewpoint because it allows them to add concepts they weren’t applying. They are not replacing their current poker strategy.
Instead, they are supplementing their current poker strategy with my poker tips. This is almost exclusive to poker strategy for tournaments. I don’t write much cash game strategy anymore because I rarely play cash games.
I used to play cash games after playing poker all day, but I would be exhausted and not on the top of my game. This was not a profitable venture. Even if I was playing 1/2 NL just to have fun, it’s still not enjoyable to drop $200 here and there. It adds up. What I have found is the following.
If you want to play cash games during a poker tournament series, then dedicate an entire day to it. Take a day off from the poker tournaments and play cash instead. When you play cash before a tournament, you rush. When you play cash after a tournament, you’re tired. When you have the entire day to play and you know that, you’re patient and fresh.
Getting back to poker strategy for tournaments, the information below relates to the 30 min-1 hour time frame prior to being in the money. In simpler terms, it relates to bubble territory.
BUBBLE TERRITORY POKER PLAY
I have had long strings of success when in these spots, and I have had long strings of failures when in these spots. I’m 100% certain what makes the difference. Not all of you will agree with what I’m about to write, but I’m out there in the trenches (at least up until now) and everything I write is based on my experiences.
When I’m on, I do one simple thing. That thing is to not do what I’m supposed to do. Because, you know, when you have 10 BBs and look down at JJ, you’re supposed to jam it when someone puts in a 3x BB raise ahead of you. I don’t necessarily do this. Poker is dynamic, so a lot depends on the player who raised. If he’s an AGGRO player, I will jam in this spot. Whatever will be will be. If he’s a tight player, I will flat. I’ll explain why.
Let’s say I whiff the flop and have to fold, now I’m down to 7 BBs. Oh my gosh, Becky! 7 BBs! What am I to do?! Chill the fuck out! That’s what you should do. Am I one of the few people that realizes the following?
Yes, when you’re at 7 BBs, you’re in jam territory. Now there is no calling. And many people will say that 7 BBs is miniscule and time to jam with any two cards. Negative. If you’re deep in the tourney, then it’s a nine-player game, which means you get seven free looks. Don’t insta-jam if you have 2,3,4,5, or even 6 free looks coming to you. Yes, if you have QJs, you jam it and hope for the best. But that’s not even what I’m going to focus on here.
If you have 7 BBs and you double-up, you have 14 BBs. Still not a lot, correct? But let’s say you double-up again, now you have 28 BBs and you’re back in the game. This means that it only takes two heads-up wins to get back in the game from 7 BBs.
Let’s rewind and go back to the JJ on 10 BBs. In most cases, if you jam and get a call, it’s either a race or your behind. There will be times where you’re called by a smaller pair, which is ideal, but it can very likely be AK, AQ, AA, KK, QQ. Do you want to take this chance or see a flop and THEN jam with the hopes of back-to-back double-ups?
With the latter approach, you’re giving yourself more chances to win because if you flat with JJ and hit the flop, great. If you fold, you’re still in the game. If you jam and whiff, you’re toast.
At the stage of the game, you’re not playing for 1st place; you’re playing to survive. A lot of people will say they’re playing for 1st place when in bubble territory, but the winner of the tourney is rarely the chip leader at this stage of the tourney. Just stay in the game and grind it higher.
And the closer you get to being ITM (In the Money), the fewer hands you want to play. That is unless you’re at a scared table. If they are all playing it that way, then you should be attacking. This is the best time to accumulate a lot of chips in a tourney. However, if someone at that table is going to stand up to you because they know what you’re doing, let Ego go and chill.
When I’m off my game, I say to myself: I have 55 UTG +1 with 15 BBs and this might be my best spot. I either raise or jam, and I usually lose. When I’m on, if I have 55 UTG +1 with let’s say 12 players until ITM, I’m folding. When I’m on, I will only play a hand like that if it’s cheap in late position or if it’s an unraised pot and I’m in the blinds.
I know this seems like a soft way to play it, but I’m literally reporting to you how things have played out over thousands of poker tournaments. I see the patterns. Even if I raise from the BB in that spot with 15 BBs, someone is likely to call because they view it as me sensing weakness and making a move.
I know this doesn’t make sense on paper, but it happens all the time in real life. Just see a flop. If you happen to flop a set, you’re in great shape. Nobody will think you checked with 55 from the BB with 15 BBs. You will likely get paid, and you might double-up.
If you’re playing online, then it’s a different kind of poker play. Online poker moves much faster, and online poker players (including poker apps players) know that there is always another cheap tournament right around the corner. This is very different from live poker, where you usually have to wait hours to enter the next tournament.
Since online poker players know that they have another affordable opportunity right around the corner, they raise and shove lighter. In online poker tournaments, you want to jam/call all-in with JJ with 10 BBs, and you want to open-jam with 55 UTG +1 with 15 BBs. In the latter scenario, I wouldn’t recommend a standard raise because you will likely be called. If you have 15 BBs in bubble territory, then the blinds are high and you should be very happy with scooping them up when you’re holding 55.
THE SIMPLE VERSION
I can simplify this entire article. The biggest live cash of my life is when I folded AK to a three-bet all-in. I would have been up against AQ and 44, and 44 won the hand. I would have lost that hand. At that point in the tourney, I was about 30 people away from the money, but I knew that the path to victory was to avoid unsure spots and wait for sure ones. I finished 7th of 2373 in that tourney.
My best online poker tourney was 1st of 660. In that tournament, I was extremely TAG. I wouldn’t play many hands, but when I did, I was often raising way too much (based on standard poker strategy).
I wasn’t doing this as a surface-level poker strategy. I was doing this so people knew if they called my pre-flop raise, I was going to put them to the test every single time. This led to people folding to me often when the blinds were higher, which allowed me to accumulate tons of easy chips and coast to victory.
If you’re playing in live Texas Hold’em Poker tournaments, avoid unsure situations and wait for sure ones when you’re close to the money. You will find that this approach is much more effective than jamming here, jamming there, calling here, and calling there. By avoiding unsure situations, you are reducing variance.
If you’re playing in online Texas Hold’em Poker tournaments, then it’s a completely different set of poker tips. You want to establish an image that you’re fearless. Once that’s established, you will get a lot more folds. But even if you don’t, so what. You’re ready to go to battle with 55. If you fail, move on to the next tourney. Failure is okay because this approach is how you win.
For the record, I haven’t played online poker in many years, but I remember it well. It wasn’t healthy for me because I got addicted to it, which led to me not living life. I was very happy the day I shut it all down. That said, I also kind of love online poker because an online poker event is what led to my writing career.
As far as Coronavirus goes, let’s see how it plays out. I hope someone busts the bastard.
♠ pokerjournal.org | Tyler Nals