Poker School Online Presents... Pro Tips, With TJ Cloutier
Recognize the Impact of the Antes and Blinds
by TJ Cloutier
The amount of the antes and blinds in relation to the size of your stack definitely affects your play. Say that it's down to three tables and the blinds are $800-$1600 with a $200 ante. It's costing you $2,600 just to play a round. If you're short-stacked, you just have to find two cards you like and get in there with them.
When I say "two cards you like," they don't necessarily need to be A-K. You might be dealt Q-J, J-10 or J-9 -- marginal hands that you usually can't stand raises with -- and now you're raising with them. You're trying to get your little bit of chips in action. You might be up against a lesser hand and win the pot with a raise. Just be sure to do something before you get so low on chips that no matter what you do, it won't help you.
Say that you have $5,000 in chips and you're playing $800-$1600 blinds. I would want to make my move in that area. Then if I make a play at a pot, I'm picking up around $4,200 (the money that's already in the pot), so I'm going to almost double my stack if I win the pot even if nobody calls me. And that's very nice. You know that if you're playing nine-handed, you're going to be back in the very same situation if you don't play another hand by the time the blinds come back to you.
When you're short stacked, the frequency of the hands you play has to increase a little bit so that you can start building your stack. Or you have to get two or three-way action in a pot, and win it. Hopefully, you're going to have a hand, but you also don't want to ante yourself down to the point where it doesn't matter. For example, if you're down to $2,500 and you win $2,500, you're right back to the $5,000 level. You haven't accomplished anything. It's still going to cost you $4,200 a round so you still have basically only eight or nine hands to choose from before you have to post the blinds again. You don't want to get back to $2,500 again because if you win, you'll be right back in the same situation again.
It's also important to remain aware of your table position in relation to the big stacks. If you're the big stack, that's great -- your position is the position at the table. If you have the most chips, it doesn't matter who's on your left or who's on your right -- your chip position compensates for your seat position, for everything.
But if you're a medium stack and a big stack is sitting to your left, or if there are two big stacks at the table and they're both to your left, you're in a bad situation a lot of times. However I wouldn't let that change my criteria for how I play. If you have a medium stack, you have enough chips to play with, so play a hand -- and hope that those two big stacks play with you because they can double you up. Just keep in mind that any time you get all your chips in against a big stack, they have you covered and you can go out of the tournament if you lose the hand. Obviously that can't happen if you're all in against a smaller stack.
It doesn't matter to me whether I'm all in against a big stack or a short stack -- I'm going to try to have the right kind of hand in that spot to begin with, and hope that it holds up. I can advise you as to what to do in these situations, but your hand still has to hold up. Time after time, it seems like the worst hand goes against the odds and wins, though it obviously doesn't win any more often over the long haul than it's supposed to. It's just that those odds kick in a little late sometimes in tournaments. People often forget that in tournament play, you're not talking about long-term results -- you're talking about getting lucky in the short term.
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