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Poker School Online Presents... Pro Tips, With TJ Cloutier
Where Are You Sitting in Relation to the Big Stacks?
by TJ Cloutier
T. J.'s Tips for Getting to the Final Table in No-Limit Hold'em Tournaments
Your table position in respect to where the big stacks are sitting at your table is important, very important, in no-limit hold'em tournaments. If you're the big stack, hurrah for you - your position is the position at the table. It doesn't matter who's on your left or who's on your right if you have most of the chips because your superior chip position compensates for everything else.
But what if you're a medium stack and a big stack is sitting to your left? Or what if there are two big stacks at the table and they're both to your left? Sorry to say, but you're in a bad situation a lot of times. However don't let that change your criteria for how you play. If you have a medium stack, you have enough chips to play with, so you can go ahead and 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, so a lot of players prefer picking on the small stacks rather than having to butt up against the big boys.
As for me, it doesn't matter whether I'm all in against a big stack or a short stack. But believe me, 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 about what to do in these situations, but your hand still has to hold up. Unfortunately, it seems that the worst hand often goes against the odds and wins, though it obviously doesn't win any more often over a long period of time than it's supposed to. Just remember that in tournaments, those odds kick in a little late sometimes. 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.
Part of deciding whether you want to go up against the big stack or shy away from him also depends on your knowledge of him as a player. As I've been preaching for years, you must always think about who is at your table, and how they're playing that day. By the time you get down to one table away from the money, you should be able to figure out who is doing what in which situations. If this guy has a big reputation, and that guy has a big reputation, usually it is well deserved. They can play. So, you have to change your play around a little bit; in other words, you need to create some deception to try to outwit them. Say that you're running good and you pick up aces under the gun. If you decide to limp in with them one time, that's fine, but don't limp in with them the next time you get them because you don't want your opponents to get a fix on you.
In other words, in addition to the their stack size, make sure you have a read on your opponents' capabilities. At the least, you might categorize each one of them as being aggressive, semi-aggressive or solid. The best tournament players can read their opponents well enough to play each type differently - even with have the same type of hand against each one. Rather than falling into the A-B-C trap, let them make the play and respond with whatever play you think will either get money or save money. That way you'll find yourself moving up the ladder all the time. And moving up the ladder all the way to the championship is what these tournament lessons are all about.
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